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The Facts Behind Marker
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Or Undeniable Proof of the Mark/Roger Ship Validity. We all know that Mark and Roger are getting it on behind closed doors. Here's the proof. A little essay written just for fun. Marker. Don't like, don't read!

A/N: I am sick and tired of hearing about how Mark and Roger have no subtext between them, or no chance of ever developing a canon relationship. So I wrote an essay. Here it is. I think that it will entertain most of you, and I swear to God, if anyone messages me or leaves a review with counterpoints, I will shoot myself in the forehead. This was fun to write. No, I don't want to argue with anyone about it. I promise. Anyways, read away my lovelies!

Disclaimer: Sadly, I am not the proud owner of RENT. But if you read this you'll know who is!

The Facts Behind Marker

(or Undeniable Proof of the Mark/Roger Ship Validity)

(By: KissTheBoy7)

How do you measure a year? Some people may say in months, in days, in hours- but any good RENThead knows that a year is measured in love. The Pulitzer prize-winning musical "RENT" has captured the hearts and minds of two generations of sensitive youths and, like anything else with a large and spirited following, has grown a considerable fanbase on- and off-line to debate different interpretations, motivations, backstories and relationships of its colorful array of characters. By far one of the most popular pairings produced by these rabid fans is between the two male leads, Mark Cohen and Roger Davis- officially roommates, artists, and best friends in the show, they have in the minds of their fans often become lovers as well. In contrast, however, many RENT fans also frown upon this pairing- sometimes very vehemently- for various reasons. While the Mark/Roger ship remains a controversial pairing among RENT fans, the shifting bond between the characters in recent productions and the overwhelming subtext between the two in even the earliest versions of the show indicate that it might yet appear as canon in future productions.

When analyzing the compatibility of two characters, it's often wise to return to their humble beginnings. The original idea for what would eventually become the rock opera we know and love today came in the early 1990's, spawned by playwright Jonathan Larson and partner Billy Aronson, who contributed many of the original concepts and lyrics of the musical. Based on the Italian opera La Boheme, RENT quickly evolved once turned solely over to Larson's capable hands into a modern moral-of-the-story tale of friendship and love, including characters from all walks of life, identities and orientations. (Fans may affectionately point out in the film version of "La Vie Boheme" that it goes "Lesbian Couple, Gay Couple, Straight Couple, Mark.") In these early versions, including the demo tapes that Larson gave to auditioning actors for the New York Theater Workshop production, the close relationship between Mark and Roger is much less subtle than it ended up in the final production. Numbers such as "You're A Fool" and "He Says" that were cut from the show add a more obvious intimacy to their relationship, as well as parts of the original "Goodbye Love" in which the characters profess to love each other. "Love you- call." "Love you, too… I hate the fall." While this could be interpreted in a platonic way, it raises the question of just how close Mark and Roger really are. For two implied heterosexual males, they have developed an admirably close relationship which can be regarded with the suspicion that all avid "shippers" learn to regard all character pairs in every fandom they witness.

Much of Mark and Roger's relationship comes from the dynamic between their original Broadway cast actors, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal. Due to their own close bond off the stage, Adam and Anthony (shipped together by some fans as "Rappscal") created a realistic banter and tender friendship between the fictional roommates. Their level of comfort around each other, coupled with their proximity whilst singing (see: Rent, the song) which was duplicated by later actors in their roles such as the final Broadway cast members, Adam Kantor and Will Chase, are enough to make many fans suspicious about the nature of their characters' relationship. (as well as their own) In the process of bringing RENT to Broadway, many of the songs from the demo tapes and New York Theatre Workshop versions of the show were cut or edited into entirely different songs. There was censorship to think about, as well as the "flow" of the show, and some characters were given an entirely new aspect to their personality. However, Mark and Roger's relationship remained close. It can be pointed out that Roger would never have opened the door for Mimi during "Light My Candle" had he not believed her to be Mark. "What'd you forget?" "Got a light?" Mark also accompanies the new couple on their first date, implying that Roger is not comfortable beginning a relationship without his roommate present. While Mimi's presence may complicate the potential relationship between Mark and Roger in canon, it also brings light to the character's feelings for one another. Once again, there may be several interpretations of the subtext between the characters, but between Roger's ease talking about his friend's erection as seen in La Vie Boheme and Mark's loneliness on Valentine's Day without his roommate (before "Take Me or Leave Me") many "Marker" shippers find that they have more than enough to go on.

In modern productions of RENT, Mark and Roger's relationship has continued to evolve. Reportedly, they have shared unnecessary touches, tender words and innuendo that seem impossible to brush off as mere friendship. One fan claimed to have heard an actor playing Mark scream Roger's name during Contact, the most sexual song of the entire show, which implies that the two shared a relationship of a highly sexualized nature at some point. While the show is never changed too drastically, the overall dynamic between characters is left entirely to the director and the actors under their control. Each new person involved brings a new element to RENT, and to Mark and Roger's subtextual relationship. The decisions of these people could make or break the romantic future of the boho boys.

Finally, as with any close-knit fandom, RENT has its fair share of fanworks splattering the internet such as fan-fiction and –art; a large sector of this is devoted, predictably, to the popular Mark/Roger- also known as "Marker" or "Mager"- pairing. While many of these fanworks depict the two as close friends, almost brotherly in nature, a growing number of them paint a romantic or sexual relationship between them where it is lacking in the canon show, or expand upon subtext they may have seen in the show, whatever version it may have been. Sites such as fanfiction dot net, LiveJournal and Deviantart have become popular places for these RENT fans to gather and share their Mark/Roger fanworks. Cosplayers have been known to go as these two characters and pose together for pictures. The first generation of RENT fans became the first generation of Mark/Roger shippers- now, post-movie, a new generation of mostly teenaged "Marker" artists and authors have emerged to take on the roles that the previous generation has been forced to abandon due to real life. The passion that these fans have shown for the pairing can only add to the potential for future productions of the show to create the canon relationship that so many of us crave between the roommates.

Provided with sufficient evidence, it is reasonable to assume that the relationship between the characters of Roger Davis and Mark Cohen will continue to evolve past the state of platonic friendship that they were molded to in the original 1996 Broadway production. The growing number of "Marker" or "Mager" shippers will be sure to contribute to that growth. Although not every version of RENT will incorporate the same elements of Mark and Roger's relationship, thus is the nature of theatre. Different productions will continue to differ from one another and the show as a whole will evolve over time, as all shows do. One thing we can be certain of is that Mark/Roger as a pairing will survive as long as, if not longer than, the show itself. Where there's a will, there's a way, and as long as RENT lives, so will "Marker".

So there you have it, guys… I worked on this for a long time and I might still revise it some more, but I really wanted to share it with all of you. I really enjoyed writing it and I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

Love, Toni!

And Beyond - 5/30
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: November 1976
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger
Rated: M
It's the summer of 1994. Mark and Roger are closer than ever. The only problem... is that Roger has been dead for more than two months. Told between flashbacks, dreams and the confused present of Mark's mind, a tale of tragedy and the supernatural. Marker. Mark/Roger.
A/N: I'm actually really proud of this, and excited. I'm still working on it and it may be a long time before it's finished but I'd love if some LJ users gave me feedback! :)

Disclaimer: Rog and Marky unfortunately belong to no living person and as I am breathing, I shall have to conclude that they don't belong to me.

Chapter Four

November 1976

Nine-year-old Mark is a lot less adventurous than he had been four years ago. He's also a lot quieter. Which is hard to imagine, considering how introverted he'd already been at five- but it's not his fault, of course. The blame goes entirely to the boys in his fourth grade class.

So what if he didn't like girls yet? He's nine for Pete's sake! He mutters this to himself as he ventures home from the bus stop, a trip that his mother had only recently started letting him take all alone when he had begged and pleaded for hours on end. Cindy was, understandably, not allowed to babysit anymore.

Besides, he was nine and obviously old enough now to think for himself. So he had told her, haughty, hands on his hips- one of the first times he'd spoken in a week after the incident.

What other choice had she had? To Mark, it was a victory won- to his mother it was a sacrifice she made in order to keep her little boy happy, help him forget what had been done to him. There was no other option, no way out. The parent of an introverted child bears the entire world on their shoulders- and said child was totally oblivious. He had his own problems to deal with, even at this age.

Even with Roger by his side, his favorite person in the world for the past four years of his life, Mark was going to have a hard time ignoring the bruises he bore.

Speaking of Roger… Perhaps he was too old to be accompanied across the street, but he wasn't too old for playdates. "Arrangements of a friendly nature," he would say, pushing his new glasses up his nose like he was the smartest little thing in the world, and Cindy would roll her eyes and mutter some derogatory comment about how Roger was the only one who he "arranged" anything with anyways. He'd stick out his tongue. And the sibling conflict would continue until Roger came barreling in, eyes alight with excitement, distracting Mark completely from the issue at hand.

"Marky?" Roger calls from the doorway. The strawberry-blonde drops what he's doing- which happens to be fiddling with his Gameboy Color, which hasn't worked in a month because one of those mean boys smashed it on the sidewalk and now there's a scratch on the side longer than his middle finger (never mind why he knew that)- and races to the door.

Nine is a tough age, Mark has decided. School hasn't been nearly as easy as he had hoped. Sure, he was smart- but he had bigger things to worry about than cursive and fractions. And Roger, sadly enough, is just old enough to be in the grade above him, effectively killing off his last vestiges of hope that someday he might be graced with the presence of his best and only friend in his classroom every day. He has to cherish every moment he can steal with the older boy, because he lived way too far away to walk to his house and Roger didn't like him to come over to his place anyways for whatever reason.

It wasn't Mark's fault that he didn't see the signs for what they were. He figured that, like all boys his age, Roger's bruises were the product of his own exploits and adventures- and if his mother had some too, if she looked ready to cry most of the time, well that wasn't his business.

Mark hadn't yet met Roger's father. He got the feeling that he wasn't going to.

As it was, though, Roger came over every Friday after school and stayed the night and that was fine by him. Far better than sitting alone in his room with a book like the nerd he's quickly become, or his math homework, and dwelling on the events of the past week.

The other boy tossed his drawstring bag full of spare clothes into the corner of his room and Mark shut the door- another new privilege, for which he was thankful as he would hate to have it open when he came home battered and emotionally damaged and ready to cry on the other four days of the week- and hopped up onto his bed with a grin plastered across his face wide enough to crack it in two. Roger hopped up beside him, as dinged up as ever but wearing the same goofy kind of smile that made Mark happy to be alive.

"So what do ya wanna do?" he asked, full of mischievous energy. After their first meeting Mark had quickly realized that the death of his cat was the only thing that put him in a downer. Contrary to his first assumption, the darker-haired boy with the dirt perpetually smudged on his cheek and the scabby knees and the too-big sweaters was quite the troublemaker. And Mark, far too meek to say no, always ended up getting caught in the whirlwind of trouble he left in his wake.

Not that it wasn't worth it. Not that it wasn't probably the most fun he'd ever had in his life. Smearing Cindy's bedroom walls with her own lipstick and coloring over the "stupid" parts of the newspaper with Crayola marker (which happened to be the sports section- Mr. Cohen was less than thrilled) were only two of thousands of ways that Roger had taught Mark to be a pest.

If anyone could pull Mark Cohen, introvert, out of his shell it was Roger Davis, mischief-maker extraordinaire.

"I dunno…" Shrugging, Mark picked his Gameboy up again and continued whacking it against his palm like he'd been doing before Roger showed up, frustrated with the lack of response. Looked like it was broken… great. "Something fun? We could-"

"Hey- what happened to this?" Roger interrupted, reaching out and plucking the small contraption right out of Mark's hands, tilting his head in curiosity as he turned it over in his larger ones. "It was fine the last time I came over."

Blushing furiously, the blonde boy swatted at him anxiously. "Hey. Give it back."

"Did you break it? Isn't your mom mad?" Roger scoffed and held it away, remembering Mrs. Cohen's reaction the first time he had come over and tipped over a vase in the living room with his 'rambunctious flailing.'

"No… It's fine, leave it," Mark mumbled, suddenly self-conscious. Roger was in the fifth grade, in a classroom a whole hallway's length away from his. He had no idea what Mark went through. The jibes, the socks to the arm or wherever else they could reach. What if he found out? Would he call Mark a wimp, too, because he cried when he got beat up?

Little boys were mean- Roger didn't count, or he didn't think so, but the others were.

Green eyes narrowed in suspicion, Roger returned the handheld device to him. "Did someone else break it then?"

"Maybe…" There weren't a lot of ways to avoid the question so Mark just shrugged, averting his eyes and swallowing nervously. He wasn't going to tell Roger anything. Nope. He was his only friend, and he wasn't about to lose him. "It's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal my ass!" he exclaimed, starting to sound angry. Mark flinched away, pressing his back to the headboard and staring at Roger apprehensively. He was rapidly transforming into a ball of unadulterated ten-year-old fury, lip curling and face turning red. It wasn't the first time he'd heard him swear, of course, but the first time he thought it might be directed at him.

Oh, no. Here it comes. He's gonna think I'm such a wimp…

"Th-they didn't mean to," he tried to explain, blinking back tears at the thought of facing Roger's contempt. "They just- they- they do this a lot…"

"Who! Give me names!" the other boy demanded hotly, looking abruptly ready to cry himself. He grabbed Mark's arm and jabbed at a dark bruise, making him wince. "Did they hit you too? I'll kill em!"

And like that, all of the bespectacled boy's fears washed away. He felt an involuntary smile spreading over his face, the tears in the corners of his eyes threatening to spill over. Oh come on, don't be a crybaby too…

Roger didn't hate him. Roger didn't even think he was weak! He licked his lips and shook his head, still smiling widely.

"It's okay. You don't have to."

"Yes I do! Mark! Mark. You can't just let people hit you-" Abruptly, Roger cut off, rubbing his own arm with a brooding expression as he stared down at the bedspread. Sensing that he'd hit a nerve, Mark automatically reached out for his hand the way he'd thought he shouldn't four years ago. Roger took it gratefully, didn't even call him a fag-

In your face, dad.

Mark smiled weakly, pressing up against his friend's side. Rarely did he let anyone touch him, but when it was Roger it was okay. Roger wouldn't tell. Roger would never hurt him.

"Maybe on the last day of school I'll let you beat em up."

Relaxing slightly, a smile blooming across his face again, Roger looked up gratefully and squeezed his hand. "Promise?"

"Swear on my life."

And Beyond - 4/30
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Who's Crazy?
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger
Rated: M
It's the summer of 1994. Mark and Roger are closer than ever. The only problem... is that Roger has been dead for more than two months. Told between flashbacks, dreams and the confused present of Mark's mind, a tale of tragedy and the supernatural. Marker. Mark/Roger.
A/N: I'm actually really proud of this, and excited. I'm still working on it and it may be a long time before it's finished but I'd love if some LJ users gave me feedback! :)

Disclaimer: RENT is not, has never been and probably will never be mine. (Probably)

Chapter 3: Who's Crazy?

June 1st, 1994

A refreshing breeze ruffled my overgrown red-blonde hair but I didn't bother to push the stray strand from my eyes, staring sightlessly out over the city. It was Wednesday and I would have been working, should have been working- that was, if I had a job. And even then I had this appointment looming over me like some dreadful black umbrella, blocking out the sunlight. My knuckles were white where they gripped the safety rail, leaning slightly over it as I pondered to myself.

Beside me, Roger watched me casually with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his leather jacket. I knew that he wanted to say something, break the silence, but all I heard was the wind blowing all around me, The roof was good for thinking, always had been- Roger used to come up here whenever he was stuck on a lyric, smoking a cigarette or strumming on his guitar.

God, I'd forgotten how much I hated those cigarettes… It's been too long since I smelled them, though, smelled them on Roger and now I imagine that he's slipping a pack and a lighter out of his pocket and lighting up, inhaling the first lungful of cancerous gray smoke. I don't dare to turn and look at him, in case the flickering image has changed to fit to my imagination.

If he's just the spawn of my own creative mind, I don't want to know. I need this last shred of hope.

"Don't you know how bad those things are for you?" I remember saying, perhaps my first week in the city. My nose had been wrinkled in distaste as I warily eyed the poisonous cylinder he offered to me. Smoking was a habit that Roger must have picked up in the city, because he'd never done it in Scarsdale- I would have known.

He'd rolled his eyes and withdrew it. "Suit yourself, then, you pussy. I don't care how healthy they are." Exaggerating every movement, he flicked the lighter to life and brought the cigarette to his lips, taking a long puff and blowing it into my face just to exasperate me. I had coughed fitfully, perhaps a little exaggerated myself. But Roger had never listened to me when it came to drugs. I hadn't been able to make him quit smoking in the eight long years that I'd lived with him. "Tastes good to me."

"Nasty." It had taken all of my self control not to smile at him as he smirked at me triumphantly, leaning against the brick wall of the building. It had been my first time out on the fire escape, the first night I'd spent in the loft. Roger was still showing me around and I was still getting used to the city air, the bright lights and the people everywhere. Being up that high had made me a little dizzy but I was determined to act normal, as though it didn't bother me at all that I could plummet to my death at any moment.

Roger knew me too well. He'd tugged me back from the edge and I had stumbled into him, blushing madly and stuttering out a protest as he switched places with me. He looked smug, leering at me. "Pussy." He emphasized, but I didn't have the grounds to argue with him.

"You know you have to go eventually. You can't procrastinate forever." The unusually quiet, serious voice startled me and I looked up, blinking, to see Roger eying me with a certain degree of reproachfulness. He was paler than usual and I had half a mind to dote on him like I had when he was alive, but for all I knew it was just a ghost thing- pointing it out would only make him self-conscious and I didn't want him storming off and never coming back just because I had to worry over every little detail…

"Yes, I can." I shrugged and turned away again, unable to meet those accusing green eyes. They bored into me from behind and I cringed. "I don't want to go…"

"Well I didn't want to get sick and die," he snapped and the words were like a physical blow, making me recoil. My guilty eyes snapped back up to him. Moody, he frowned deeply and looked ready to stomp his foot- instead, his hand reached out to punch me on the arm. I barely felt it but I didn't say anything. Let him think it hurt.

I was always good for Roger's ego.

"You have to go." I was the one frowning now, petulant at his insistent tone. What, I didn't get a choice in the matter? What if I didn't want to go get shrink-wrapped? What if I didn't care that Maureen and Joanne were "concerned" about my recent behavior?

It didn't matter, I told myself, that I did in fact care and that everyone knew it. What mattered was the principal. I had the control, didn't I? I needed the control. I needed someone to confirm for me that yes, yes Mark, you HAVE the control.

Roger was never one to mollycoddle. "You have to go."

"Maybe I don't have to go." It was weak to my own ears. "Maybe I'm perfectly fine right now." Pathetic. "I'm fine."

He snorted.

"Don't give me that bullshit. Go." He drew one hand out of his pocket, pointing it towards the stairs, nodding his head and allowing his dark hair tall slightly into his face. I've never seen Roger so… solemn, so serious about one of our argument. He's the emotional one, the one whose always on the verge of jumping and shouting and crying and splattering his feelings all over anyone in the immediate area, whoever they may be. This cold approach was new and frightening. "Go, Cohen."

Ah. There it was, the silver lining on the edge of his voice. The tremble that only I could have heard. Relaxing, I reached to grasp the pointing hand and smiled as he looked into my eyes, helpless and searching for something I wasn't sure was even there.

"Roger, I love you. I don't care if that makes me crazy."

Sometimes the thoughts in my head come out in a way that I don't intend.

Roger scowled, eyes darkening, and I was afraid that he would snap at me. But somehow he managed to scrape together his composure, taking a deep breath and forcing himself to do so.

"I'm not a hallucination, Mark."

Isn't that typical, though? Wouldn't a hallucination say that?

"Don't even give me that fucking look."

Flinch. Wide, guilty eyes.

"Just- Jesus Christ, Mark." He pressed his face into his hands, shoulders hunched, seeming to battle with his own frustration for a few long moments before he looked up and glared at me reproachfully. "I can't believe you don't trust me, man. I fucking love you. I'm only staying here for you."

That wasn't totally true. I hadn't put too much thought into this- solely because I was afraid that if I did it would provide incriminating evidence against my sanity- but I could see in Roger's eyes that he was scared. Maybe even more so than I was. At least I wasn't in limbo, wasn't invisible in the world I still felt I belonged in, wasn't unable to go farther than a tame kiss with the man I loved.

When I stopped to think about it I squirmed shamefully- Roger had enough on his plate without my insecurity. If I was going to be a good boyfriend, I ought to take his word on this.

Never mind that he might be a figment of my imagination…

"M'sorry," I mumbled, looking up through my eyelashes in the proper apologetic fashion. He softened despite himself at the familiar look, relaxing his shoulders and extending a hand. His eyes searched mine, pleading as I reached up to squeeze his fingers- dammit, how could I say no?

"Please go," he whispered, sounding almost agonized, and I turned to stare back over the busy city, traffic blaring eight stories below. The wind ruffled my hair and I inhaled deeply in an attempt to calm myself.

"… Alright. But- but you have to come with me."


"Mr. Cohen?"

"… Yes, that- Mark. I'm Mark."

"Sit down."

My lips twitched into an awkward shadow of a smile as I sat, stiff and already on edge, on the couch facing my new therapist's chair. The woman was young and blonde and I couldn't help but wonder for a moment what she was doing in this business so early in her life. Who wanted to be a psychologist anyways? Dealing with other people's shit all day long. I cautiously rested my hands in my lap, daring to look up from her tasteful black heels to her face. Sharp cheekbones, large eyes framed by thick lashes as light as mine, hair done up in a loose bun as she observed me from over the tops of her glasses. She would have been pretty- except she was giving me one of those disarming smiles that I've grown to hate so very much over the years.

By shrink number five, you start to see a pattern.

When it became apparent that I wasn't about to start any conversations, she sat back in her chair- artificial, all of it, she's not really relaxed she's just doing her job- and regarded me softly, still smiling. "What brings you here today, Mark?"

"The ghost of boyfriend past. What else." Wow. I know I can be sarcastic, but I'm not normally this testy. Sighing, I glance up apologetically albeit grudgingly, fidgeting in my seat.

"And what do you mean by that?"

Her eyes never left mine, sharp and curious, penetrating me or at the very least trying to. But the pen in her hand was poised to write on that blank pad balanced on her knee and I knew perfectly well that she would be documenting my responses. Is it awful that I'm afraid of leaving behind "incriminating evidence"? After all, I haven't done anything wrong… Not illegal, anyways, and who could ever prove that ghosts weren't real?

But I was supposed to be the sane one. I didn't want any of the psych drugs, of that I was a hundred and ten percent certain.

I faked a smile. "I have paranoid friends. They forced me." Not to mention Roger, who was giving me a look again from across the room, arms folded as he leaned back against the wall and observed the exchange tensely. "If you could just write them a note or something I would really appreciate-"

There was a cool gust and suddenly Roger was beside me, glaring into my soul and I cringed and let out a shaky breath. The woman blinked at me in concern as I blushed and mumbled, "Well maybe there is one thing…"

"I'm a thing now?" I did my best to ignore Roger's dry commentary, half a mind to shove him away as he sat cross-legged beside me, smug and satisfied. My lips twisted downward along with my gut.

"And that is…?" She trailed off, uncertain, less-than-subtle in her attempt to cover up her confusion at my minor psychological breakdown.

Roger reached for my hand and I stayed perfectly still, letting him rest it against my skin, the coolness making me shiver lightly. I met her eyes, blue to blue, and spoke in an even, practiced tone that I was sure would earn another glare from my deceased other.

"My best friend died recently." Well now it's out there. I don't even have time to be embarrassed about blurting it out before she's scratch-scratching at the paper and I stare at the secretive trails of ink as if I can burn holes in the paper with my eyes. What is she writing? Shit. Have I given myself away already?

What if I am certifiably crazy?

The muscles in my face twitch at the thought and I nearly miss what she says next, perturbed at the thought. "How are you dealing with that?" I wonder if I missed something but who even cares if I did? I'm only here because Roger wants me to be. She stares at me in that piercing way of hers and I can't decide if it makes me like her or not.

At the very least the lady is willing to get straight to the point. Not like the other ones I've tried over the years. I don't think she really cares, I'm not that naïve, but…

Suddenly the pastels of the room are stifling me and I want to choke, unable to summon the words as her question hits me like a kick to the gut. How am I dealing with Roger's death? Obviously not well- obviously not at all, because here he is sitting beside me and if he were real shouldn't she be able to see him too? I've never heard of a ghost with selective visibility.

All of the signs point to crazy and I'm just ignoring them. As I always have. Roger is a big help with that one, stroking over the back of my hand in that nervous way that's meant to comfort me but only makes me want to run away and hide.

"Mark?" she asks gently, and I fight the urge to spit fire at her for taking that tone- the one usually reserved for mental patients, for small children or frightened animals- even though I probably look like I need it. "If you need a moment-"

"I'm fine." Great. Now I sound like Roger. Denial doesn't flatter you, Marky. The memory surfaces like an old wound, skin suddenly itchy and unbearable to be in, like a woolen sweater. "We can um- continue. If you…"

I'm not really sure how to go on so I just trail off lamely again, gazing at her with apprehensive confusion and I really couldn't care less if I'm frustrating her because these people are paid hourly to be patient- by Joanne, not me, but I would feel guilty wasting her money by being the obedient little child spilling my guts to the woman in the swiveling desk chair, watching as my words were poured onto the page and twisted into some disease or disorder I won't really believe I have anyways.

… Wow. Disregard all that rambling right there. I'm nervous.

"Well… how about we start with this." Obviously unsettled, she smiled at me slightly less brightly and glanced down at her hastily scribbled notes as if they could help her. "What was your friend's name?"

"Roger." It comes out odd, voice twisted in pain, and I glance to Roger again for support. He leans against me and rests his head on my shoulder. I fight the urge to curl my arm around him, knowing that it will only further her suspicions about the state of my mental health. "He… We've known each other since kindergarten."

"Knew," she corrects me absently, which while I'm used to it by now still annoys the shit out of me. Fuck her. Fuck all of them who thought they knew what had happened to Roger. They weren't there.

"That can't have been easy for you," she's continuing, voice soft, and I'm surprised to find that there's a lump in my throat. Since when do I cry in front of people? Ducking my head again I blink a few times just to be sure none of the traitorous tears have escaped, clearing my throat and nodding.

"I missed him at first."

Shit. I winced at my own slip up as she raised an incredulous eyebrow.

"At first? Don't you miss him now, Mark? You know, it's okay to miss someone once they're gone. Especially someone close to you. You don't have to bottle it up."

"Right." I swallow, hard, as Roger murmurs soothing words into my ear to help me focus. Everything is beginning to blur, my chest tight as I feel a panic attack looming over me and force it back down with sheer force of will. "Miss. I miss him."

And it's true that I miss him, even with his presence right beside me reminding me that he loves me, that he's here, that he won't let the crazy psycholo-bitch get in my head. But it's different. It's not like it was just after he… left. His body, I mean.

No. Nothing could compare to that.

Crying. I never fucking cry. Never, never, I'm not some fucking sap- I'm supposed to be strong! What's wrong with me?

"Oh, honey, Marky, baby it's okay," Maureen is cooing, attempting to pull me into her arms like I'm some CHILD who needs comforting- I tear myself away, arms wrapped around my middle tightly as though that will keep my broken heart from falling right out of my chest.

None of them know. They don't know ANYTHING.

The ring hanging innocently from the chain around my neck burns a freezing circle into my collarbone beneath my sweater, a reminder of what I've lost.

Joanne is crying. Maureen is crying. Roger's mother is crying and mine is too, even though she always claimed she didn't like him- not after the drug incident anyways, after the first hysterical call home because I had no one else to turn to, sobbing into the phone that Roger wasn't breathing, that I think he overdosed-

"On what?" she'd asked, shocked to hear her normally withdrawn son so scared and needy at all, hardly absorbing my words.

But I knew she loved him. They all loved him and I shouldn't feel so contemptuous of their tears- but none of them loved him like I did.


"Just- just FUCK OFF, Maureen!"

I shook my head, dazed, and found both my therapist and Roger looking at me in concern. Her face was quizzical- his was pained, almost as if he knew exactly what I'd been thinking about. Maybe he did. Maybe he really was in my head?

Sick to my stomach at the idea that I could be imagining all of this, I lurched to my feet, pale and stoic. "Mr. Cohen-" she began in alarm as I strode for the door, shaking, but I shook my head again.

"I have to go," I muttered, pushing my glasses nervously up the bridge of my nose as I pushed the door open roughly and fled out into the waiting room, past a row of raised eyebrows and cautious faces that told me I did indeed look like a crazy person, storming out of my shrink's office. What they must think of me…

Roger was right behind me, and whether he was floating or walking I didn't even care. "Dude, what the hell are you doing?" he hissed, frustrated that he couldn't just drag me back like he would have if he were alive. He snatched at my arm and I shuddered violently at the cold, spinning to face him.

"I just- I can't right now, Roger, I'm sorry."

He gazed at me with agonized green eyes and, without warning, faded away. Halfway down the stairs with no one in sight I sunk to my knees, head in my hands, blinking back the tears more violently than ever.

Memories of the funeral were swirling through my mind, fresh and laced with the unique pain that only a widower can understand, a bitter taste left on my tongue. I was hot, I was cold, everything flashing past in a whirlwind of sound and color.

God, the funeral… I didn't even want to remember.

But I had to. That's when all of this started.

"Fuck OFF!"

And she had. Quickly, without even giving me the reproach that I expected and probably deserved, she had pulled Joanne into a corner and left me alone, drying her girlfriend's tears.

I was in pain, but at that point I was sane. I missed Roger like fuck. I wanted him back. But he was dead and I figured nothing could change that.

Sane… I remember sanity.

Halfway through the eulogy I'd written and rewritten and rambled through dry-eyed (not without effort) for three days, he'd appeared.

I remembered it. But not fondly.

And Beyond - 3/30
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: September 1972
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger
Rated: M
It's the summer of 1994. Mark and Roger are closer than ever. The only problem... is that Roger has been dead for more than two months. Told between flashbacks, dreams and the confused present of Mark's mind, a tale of tragedy and the supernatural. Marker. Mark/Roger.
A/N: I'm actually really proud of this, and excited. I'm still working on it and it may be a long time before it's finished but I'd love if some LJ users gave me feedback! :)

Disclaimer: I think we're all aware of this but let me say it again. RENT HAS NEVER BEEN MINE. Get it, got it? Good.

Chapter Two

September 1972

The setting: Scarsdale, New York. The year is 1972 and the season is late summer, early fall. School will be in session in another few days and the children are lamenting the loss of their freedom.

Mark Cohen has nothing to lament. In fact, he's excited to start kindergarten no matter what his sister says about it being the gateway to thirteen years of hell. She's twelve and sick of school already, but the redheaded boy she calls her baby brother is firmly convinced that she's just being a stupidhead. He's smart, or so his mother always told him- school is going to be a piece of cake for him.

Impatient for his year to begin, he's dragged Cindy (because, well, she's been charged with watching him and he's good at pestering her) to the playground behind the elementary building. It's getting chilly, even in the early afternoon, so it comes as no surprise that they're one pair of very few that are milling about on the school grounds. Mark doesn't know anyone yet, only his next-door neighbor Maureen, and she's a girl so she doesn't count. He'd like to meet some boys his age, maybe, and get a headstart on those friendships that he has a feeling he's going to have trouble making.

In a vain search for suitable companions, young Mark scampers across the yellowing grass to the monkey bars first and is disheartened to find them populated by older children, who cast him dirty looks for even standing so close to them. He takes a hint, edging away and observing the rest of the playground. Two little girls play together on the swing set, giggling and shrieking at ear-piercing levels. A boy sits on the latter to the top of the metal slide, but he's bawling over a scrape on his knee as his mother, kneeling beside him, digs in her purse for a bandage.

All in all, not very promising.

Cindy, who is supposed to be keeping him out of trouble, has found a girl her own age to chatter with. She seems to have completely forgotten about mark, which is perfectly fine by him. If he can't make friends, he might as well go explore and he can't do that with his sister trampling along behind him the whole time, nagging about going home so she can fix her luscious blonde hair.

The woods behind the elementary school can hardly be called woods, just a thin copse of trees surrounding a shallow stream, but to a five-year-old boy it's a treasure trove, an adventure. Autumn hasn't yet ruined it for him, only a few browning leaves scattered on the ground, and he hopes that he can catch a frog if he looks hard enough to bring home. Maybe this time his mother will actually let him keep it.

Glancing up again to make sure that his sister is preoccupied, Mark begins to creep toward the treeline. Soon he's out of the watery sun and into the cool shade, surrounded by tall trees instead of empty space, and he grins when Cindy is out of his sight. Finally, some solo exploration.

The redhead fixes his eyes on the ground and follows the slope of the land until his shoe sinks into the black mud and he realizes that he's nearly stumbled right into the stream, which is cold and clear at this time of year. Wiping it off as best he can onto the grass, Mark crouches down and dips his fingers into the crystalline water, enjoying the numbing cold for a moment. It's so much quieter here- Mark is so awkward around other children, other people in general, but here in the tranquil silence he's free of that burden. His blue eyes roam the stream bank in a search for an amphibian but as far as he can tell there are no slimy green friends to be found.

Just as he straightens up, ready to move along to a new spot, Mark hears a young voice, male, catch in a sniffle. "Is that deep enough?" His eyebrows shoot up and he swivels around to look for the source. There, much further down the banks, a boy about his age and a taller figure that must have been his mother stood over a shallow hole holding a shovel. Curiosity gets the best of him and before he can remind himself that he's not supposed to talk to strangers, the bespectacled youth finds himself drawing nearer.

The woman that he assumes is the boy's mother rests a hand on his shoulder, rubbing it soothingly. "That's fine, Roger," she murmurs, and his shoulders shake some more before he takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself. As he nears, Mark can see that the boy is wearing a hoodie two sizes too big for him and jeans full of holes. His sneakers look like they're ready to fall apart at the seams. He drops the shovel carelessly, letting it lie in the moss as he picks up the paper bag at his feet and placing it gently in the hole.

Mark is mere feet away now, but they still don't seem to notice him. The boy's mother bends down to pick up the shovel, using it to scoop the dark earth back on top of the bag in little piles. Her dress is frayed and worn, her skin pale, and not in the healthy way that Mark's is. She looks sick or tired or maybe some of both. As he's about to announce his presence, Mark steps on a twig and hears, to his horror, a sharp CRACK. Both heads turn in alarm.

"Who're you?" Roger asks, quickly wiping at his eyes to disguise the fact that he's been crying from the other boy.

Meekly, Mark approaches. "I'm- M-Mark," he stammers, feeling a flush rise on his cheeks. So much for tranquil silence. He sticks out a hand the way his father had taught him and after a confused look to his mother, who nods at him to accept it, Roger hesitantly takes it and shakes it loosely as though he's wondering if Mark is going to hurt him somehow.

"I'm Roger." He seems to be regaining his composure, even smiling a little as he withdraws his hand, and Mark finds himself mesmerized by those vibrant green eyes and long, dark eyelashes.

"Whatcha doin'?" he asked. In the background, Roger's mother stifles a smile as the two boys get acquainted. He pretends not to notice. Roger glances down at the shallow grave of the paper bag, smile faltering.

"That's Smoky." An index finger, nail as bitten as Mark's are, extends towards the bag. "He was my cat…"

"Oh." Most boys probably would have made fun of Roger for the trembling in his voice, but Mark knew what it was like to lose a pet and also what it was like to cry in front of someone. Sympathy, as strong as a boy his age has ever felt, washed over him and he resisted the urge to grab Roger's hand. That wasn't normal boy behavior, he remembered his father telling him, and he didn't want Roger thinking he was being queer on him right of the bat. "My dog died a couple of months ago."

Roger gives him a grateful, weak smile and sidles slightly closer. "What was his name?" he asks, licking his lips nervously.

"His name was Leo… Do you need any help?" The redhead gestured at the hole and Roger hesitantly nodded, again looking to his mother for guidance. She smiled warmly at Mark, and even though she still looked exhausted he could tell she was friendly.

"Would you like with us out for ice cream, Mark?" she asked. Roger's eyes lit up and he nodded vigorously at Mark, starting to grin. Mark felt his own smile creep back onto his face.

"Y-yeah… I like ice cream…"

Three scoops of dirt and a pay phone call home later, Mark was in a car he'd never laid eyes on before, buckled in beside the boy that he didn't even know yet was going to be his best friend.

He couldn't imagine a better start to the school year.

And Beyond - 2/30
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: He's Not Here
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger
Rated: M
It's the summer of 1994. Mark and Roger are closer than ever. The only problem... is that Roger has been dead for more than two months. Told between flashbacks, dreams and the confused present of Mark's mind, a tale of tragedy and the supernatural. Marker. Mark/Roger.
A/N: I'm actually really proud of this, and excited. I'm still working on it and it may be a long time before it's finished but I'd love if some LJ users gave me feedback! :)

Disclaimer: RENT isn't mine and the basest idea for this came from Next to Normal, also not mine.

Chapter 1: He's Not Here

May 29th, 1994

The alarm I've owned for the past six years is the most annoying thing you will ever hear. I don't care who you are, what you do, when you get up- that monotone beeping right in your ear? Yeah. No one wants to wake the fuck up to that.

I have to say, however begrudgingly, that it gets the job done. I bought the stupid old thing from the thrift shop for five bucks after the second time I noticed Roger sneaking back in at four in the morning, high as a kite; I needed something to wake me up in case he forgot his key. When I think about it I did a lot of crazy things like that for Roger, even before…

I had to really restrain myself from whipping the small black contraption at the wall, slamming my hand down on the big raised button on the top- the letters rubbed off a long time ago, but it used to say 'snooze' and it never worked until I got Collins' friend to fix it. Sitting up, I glared briefly at the flashing red numbers proclaiming it to be 3:00 am. It took me a moment to remember why I was getting up so early on a Sunday morning, but a quick glance at the calendar tacked to the wall over my bed cured me of that ail and I jumped out of bed in a much better mood, absently pulling on some clothes off the floor.

The cold wooden floor was less than pleasant to my sleep-warmed feet, but I walked slowly and allowed it to wake me up. The trip to the kitchen was uneventful. I passed Roger's door and paused for a moment, gazing a little too long at the scuffed piece of wood hanging crookedly in the frame, but no one emerged and I sighed as I continued, trying not to be disappointed. Roger was never up this early.

As I reached up into the cupboards, searching in vain for any remaining packets of cocoa to mix with my coffee, I absently thought of a day way back when in the early days of my New York experience. It was my first Christmas in the city and Roger had spent the day educating me about the city way of celebrating things.

"Real New Yorkers don't have trees or ornaments. They're a fire hazard, and besides, it's a pain in the ass getting them upstairs," he had instructed me sternly. I had nodded eagerly along, wide-eyed and adoring. At twenty, I was a puppy, not a man. I followed every rule he set me down to the last detail- Roger was my guardian angel. In some ways, he still is.

"No tree… What about presents? Can we put up decorations at least?" I had asked, slightly sad over the thought of a Christmas without strings of tinsel and popcorn, the scent of pine needles. Though my mother was as Jewish as they come, my father was Catholic- every other year, our house had been lit up with multicolored bulbs and flickering red and green candles in the windows, the brightest house on the block.

"Decorations are a waste of money. Presents are only if you want to. Come on, Mark, don't be a sap. You don't have a job or anything, right? How do you expect to pay for fucking Christmas presents?" He'd snorted at that, finding the very idea ludicrous. Once again I had nodded, suppressing a hurt frown.

Roger had been in the city for a year already while I tried- and failed, pretty miserably- to make something of myself at Brown. If anything had been a waste of my time, it was that year and a half I spent on a college campus, miserable and awkward amongst my peers. Roger had it right- the bohemian lifestyle was the ideal, no matter what cost. Even if I had to give up Christmas.

"So… What do New Yorkers do for Christmas?" I remember asking, hesitant. Roger grinned crookedly in response.

"We trick… and then we have ourselves a treat."

"… Wait, that's Halloween!"

"Every day is Halloween here, Marky."

He'd thrust a chipped mug of cocoa under my nose then, still hot thanks to the hotplate that, back then, still worked. And even now, the frothy chocolate and tiny marshmallow morsels tasted sweet as I recalled it.

My reminiscing, as per usual, gets me in trouble. Suddenly I'm not on my tiptoes struggling to feel the dusty corners of the cupboard- I'm sprawled across the floor with a bump on my head, having collided with the corner of the counter on the way down. Dizzy, I laid back and stared up at the skylight until all of the doubles re-merged into single objects. I grimaced at the sharp pain in my temple, waiting it out.

"Y'kay?" mumbled a voice to my right. I blinked and turned, ignoring the throbbing in favor of my curiosity. Sitting on the metal table that I'd been eating my breakfasts on for nearly a decade, cross-legged and bleary, Roger gave me a little wave and then yawned widely, chapped lips stretching and revealing a row of perfect white teeth, a dark abyss of throat and then nothing as he sealed his lips again. Despite myself, I was already grinning. I sat up perhaps a little prematurely and raised one hand to wave back.

"Fine," I assured him, getting to my feet and wobbling. Let's hope I didn't have a concussion. Already the concern has vanished, leaving that trademark mischievous gleam in his eye. "Are you coming?"

"Today?" He brightens. Always count on Roger to know what I'm talking about before I even finish saying it. "Is it already Sunday?"

"Went quick, didn't it?" There was a hint of a chuckle in my voice as I nodded and reached to unplug the coffeepot. No reason to start a fire if I wasn't even going to get a caffeine buzz out of it, and Roger never drank coffee anymore. He hopped off the table, lithe as a cat and totally silent, and padded up behind me. I was turned the other way, but I've grown sensitive to Roger's movements as of late, almost supernaturally so. I toss an adoring grin over my shoulder, still caught in my half-remembered non-Christmas from years back, and I know that he's smirking.

"Yeah, sure, I'll go." The nonchalance is totally fake. I know him too well, but he still tries to pull one over on me once in a while. Now that I've seen beneath the arrogant façade, I can't forget the vulnerable boy ZI saw. "Why not? Boring as fuck around here anyways."

"You could always bug Maureen," I commented drily, still turned away. I took the pot off the burner and poured myself a mug, knowing full well that I wouldn't drink it. When I did turn he was right there, calloused hands gripping the edges of the counter on either side of my waist, leaning in so close I was almost afraid he'd crash into me and we'd both be down for the count.

"She ignores me," he whined, lower lip jutting out in a ridiculous pout. I would have called it out but I was breathless from our proximity. Instead I blushed crimson and smiled weakly, letting him continue. "She doesn't even like me, mark. Face it. You're the only one I can bug."

Maybe that should have exasperated me, but inwardly I smiled.

"I'm the only one who puts up with your bullshit," I agreed, thrusting the mug futilely under his nose. There's an ache in my chest, because I know that he's not going to drink it before he even shakes his head but I really wish he would. God, I wish… I set the mug down on the counter.

"You ready?" His expression, a sad, knowing twist on his usual smile, only makes it worse. All I do is nod again, averting my eyes and trying to regain my usual cheer so that we could continue our banter. Without having to push or even ask I duck right out of his grasp and head for the bedroom for my camera, returning just a few short moments later. Roger is gone, but that comes as no surprise. I'll see him soon, anyways.

The front door clangs shut behind me and I begin the descent of a thousand stairs. Another memory, one of a million involving Roger's bitchiness, drifts past; winding the crank on my camera I smile fondly as I recall the whiny note in his voice, the many mornings I would listen to him bitch and moan over the eight flights of stairs that we climbed on a daily basis. In all the years that we lived there, he never got over that.

"People weren't meant to live up this high," he would say, totally serious as he gazed at me from the opposite end of the couch. "This isn't an apartment. It's a fucking nest! We might as well sprout wings."

And then Collins would pass the joint his way and I would giggle, already halfway to stoned myself, and he'd relax again.

By the time I reach the sidewalk, I can feel my mood lifting again. Perhaps it's unhealthy, how I let Roger rule my emotions, but I certainly enjoy the ups if not the downs. People brush past brusquely, nothing on their minds but getting where they're going. I take my time. It's a long walk to the cemetery but it's Sunday and I have nothing better to do- in fact, I've been anticipating it all week long, since my last Sunday morning visit.

I know without having to look that Roger is beside me again. We walk in companionable silence, enjoying the mild warmth of this late spring morning. It's that perfect moment between rainy springtime and sweltering summer and we have to enjoy it while we still can. The weight of my camera in my hands is familiar and comforting and I can practically smell the exasperation rolling off Roger in waves as I film random passerby, stoplights, alleyways. I've never gone into the cemetery without my camera- and I'm not about to start- but I know he'd like it if I left it at home for once.

Next time, maybe. If he really wants it. But it's doubtful.

The sun rises in the sky as we walk and by the time I see the cemetery gates it's blindingly bright. Light reflects off of the concrete and makes me squint, repeatedly pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose only to have them slide back down again. Yes, it's definitely an early summer; there's no mistaking the teensy miniskirts and nearly-naked men and women walking in small groups, the teenagers licking at ice cream cones and chattering like chipmunks. I remember being one of those kids. It's almost sad to think that I won't ever have that brand of uninformed bliss again.

Life isn't all ice cream and pleasant conversation, but they won't find out until later.

My hands lower slowly and the camera with them. I stared up at the sign, old and cast iron, and then out over the grassy hills within the gates. They're dotted with headstone after rugged headstone; it's not a high-end place. The stones are closely packed, almost on top of each other in certain places. It's the same cemetery we buried April in and where we would have buried Mimi, had her mother not interfered. It's all we could afford. Angel's grave rests in a much prettier graveyard uptown.

It might be a place for the living to mourn the dead, but I sort of liked it. It's quiet and peaceful, and on a day like this there are hundreds of flowers in bloom to cheer the place up.

Already, my feet have automatically begun to tread the path to my favorite destination. The camera is switched off. I've never come there without it, but the only footage I have of the realm beyond the front gate is the video I took of the burial. I never watch that. The sight of the coffin being lowered into the dark soil never fails to make me cry, and crying isn't exactly my thing.

There is a tune in my head, the same old one, and I dare to hum a few notes before becoming self-conscious and falling silent. Musetta's Waltz. Roger will hopefully take it as a sign to strike up a conversation now.

Looming up ahead is a black slab with gray-white letters etched into the face, no more special than any of the others unless you're me. This particular headstone was precious to me. For the first time, I'd taken money when Benny offered it. We both knew that it wasn't ever going to be paid back, promises be damned, but the relief far outweighs the guilt. I wasn't going to let them bury my best friend without a marker.

When I reached it I knelt and, ignoring the leftover dew soaking through the knees of my corduroys, reached to touch the polished surface. My fingertips had hardly skimmed over the inscription when I heard the familiar sound of an amused cough above me.

Roger's legs dangled over the edge of the headstone, sneakers barely scraping the ground beneath him. I sat back on my heels, setting my camera carefully down on a dry patch beside me and shaded my eyes as I smiled up at him.


"Hey." He smiled briefly back at me, but it didn't reach his eyes. It was still odd seeing him clean of makeup, free of bleach. Hair dark and eyes un-rimmed, he hardly seemed like Roger, but that wasn't really for me to decide was it? "How are you feeling?"

It struck me as strange that he would ask me so formally, but I shrugged it off and pushed myself up off the ground, lurching to wrap my arms around him in a hug. The fact that his bare arms felt papery, almost wispy under my touch, didn't bother me. Hugging Roger was a commodity that I had to appreciate whenever I could. Several deep breaths later I reluctantly pulled away, hoping he wasn't uncomfortable. He smiled wanly. I chose to ignore the strain in his expression and the bags under his eyes, glad just to have him there.

"I'm good." Belatedly, I realized he was waiting for an answer and stammered one out. "Maureen's been stopping by more… She's worrying over nothing."

"Sounds like someone else I know." Lips pulling into a slight smirk, Roger gave me a pointed look before tipping his head back and gazing at the sky. "What else?"

"Er…" At a loss, I cringed and shuffled my feet, a pink tint to my cheeks. I didn't have much of a social life, or a life at all- that was nothing new. I was probably boring him and I grasped at straws, desperate to keep his interest. "I had a really odd dream last night."

"Was it the one with the cats again?" He didn't bother to look at me as he asked, seeming mesmerized by the wisps of white in the azure sky. I guess I could understand that; it was rate, when Roger got a glimpse of true blue sky.

"No." I shook my head, sidling closer. I was hesitant to touch him without permission, since I never knew what would happen, but I couldn't help the magnetic draw he had to me. Once again, I allowed my eyes to wander and glimpsed the words etched into the stone he sat on.

It read:

Roger Adam Davis


Rock God and best friend.


The same deep feeling of regret welled up and made me clench my fists at my sides, gritting my teeth as subtly as possible as I fought off tears. It was harder and harder to be stoic these days. Crying was still strictly forbidden- something that was self-imposed- but every so often I wondered if I should just give in. There was so much to cry about and so few reasons to abstain.

He must have noticed my prolonged silence, or perhaps he sensed my sorrow because he lowered his head to gaze at me mournfully. "Are you going to tell me about your dream?" he asked, voice low and husky.

Though moments ago it hadn't seemed like the dream was anything significant, I found myself meekly shaking my head. No, I didn't want to share it. It didn't seem right. Roger furrowed his eyebrows for a moment, scrutinizing me, and then hopped off of the headstone. He crouched down and I had a moment of alarm before I realized what he was doing.

He was tying my shoe.

Again, my mind whirled and I found myself caught in a fragment of the past.

"I can't do it."

"Yes you can. You're not stupid. It's just a shoelace!"

"I can't DO It!"

Increasingly frustrated, six-year-old Roger stomps his foot and turns bright red, lips set in a petulant frown. I knew him well enough by then to see the angry, embarrassed tears gathering at the corners of his big green eyes.

"It's not hard. I can teach you. My mom taught me last year."

I had smiled at him then, dimpled and full of holes where my baby teeth had fallen out. Inside, I had been anxious and ready to do anything to make my friend feel better. Roger was the first friend I'd ever made, and I wanted to hold onto him forever.

The other boy had wiped at his eyes as quickly as possible, trying to be subtle, and I had pretended not to notice. "My mom said she would… But she's at work all the time. I thought I had it figured out but…" He looked down doubtfully at his sneakers, ratty laces tangled up in ineffective gray knots that did nothing to prevent his feet from slipping right out.

"I said I'd help you, didn't I?" I'd knelt then, right in front of him on my own front lawn, and picked up the ends of his laces. It felt awkward to look up as I set to work- up and over, loop-de-loop and pull…- but I peeked anyways over the top of my Coke-bottle glasses. Roger's blurry face watched avidly, chewing his lip. He smiled tentatively and I did as well.

"That's all," I remember saying, and he had ducked his head to mutter a quick thanks before, just as hastily, pulling me into a tight hug. As soon as he let go, he ran.

I'd watched him, sneakers slapping the pavement without flying off for the first time in what seemed like forever, until he disappeared in the distance. And the smile hadn't left my face for the rest of the day.

Present-day Roger got to his feet and reached to squeeze my hand. His normally sickly-pale skin was tinted pink, the only hint that he felt anything more than platonic about the action, and I automatically squeezed it, glad for the abnormal papery feel of it in my grasp.

"I miss you, Mark."

I looked into his eyes and read the despair, mirroring my own emotions. I squeezed harder, vaguely hoping that I wouldn't break this fragile remnant of the man I loved.

"I miss you, too."



"Is that him?" Maureen shaded her eyes against the bright June sunlight with one hand, tugging Joanne along with the other. She squinted into the distance, over the rows and rows of simple headstones towards the single skinny shadow of a figure who she strongly suspected was her mentally unbalanced ex-boyfriend.

"Could be… It's close enough to the grave. Let's go see," Joanne sighed. She allowed Maureen to drag her, long brown hair swaying behind her, and struggled to keep her mind on the task. It seemed like every day her fiancée grew more beautiful- and she wasn't even aware of it. But that wasn't the issue at hand.

The issue at hand was, unfortunately, Mark Cohen.

As the couple wove their way towards the familiar shape, Joanne began to dread facing him again. She and Maureen and Collins loved Mark, of course, but the past couple of months had been an uphill battle. It was Roger that set him off- specifically, his death- and since they had only seen a steady decline.

Mark had always been the most levelheaded of the bohemians, but lately he seemed ready to crack.

"What's he-?" She shut her mouth with a snap as they drew within earshot. It was definitely Mark, definitely alone, but then who was he talking to?

She and Maureen gave each other looks of disbelief as they listened.

"You know I love you right? I still do."

A pause. Then, a laugh.

"No. I wouldn't even think of anyone else. I could never replace you."

Forcing herself to relax, Joanne gently wriggled out of Maureen's grip and took another step forward, still staring uncertainly at the empty air that Mark seemed to be having a conversation with. This was worse than they had suspected… As curious as she was about how this would progress, Joanne knew she had to put a stop to it. One dark-skinned hand reached for Mark's thin shoulder.

"Mark?" she asked slowly, wary of the response she might receive- or lack of response.

The reaction was instantaneous and startled- he turned on his heel and stepped back, blue eyes wide and nostrils flared. When he saw that it was only his friends, the strawberry-blonde relaxed a little and attempted a skittish smile. The way he stood seemed defensive, but neither Maureen nor Joanne could fathom why.

"H-hey. Hi." He fidgeted, feeling ridiculously as though he'd been caught in some forbidden act. But talking to Roger wasn't forbidden, was it? Only unusual. Misunderstood. Behind him, the other man had probably already slipped back into whatever world he lived in when he wasn't by Mark's side.

That feeling of regret hit him full force in the gut, threatening to choke him.

Increasingly worried as Mark winced, Maureen stepped forward and pulled him into a hug, the smile on her face ready to slip off as she wondered what could be wrong with him.

"You said you'd go out sometime with us, right? We thought today would be good. Right, pookie?" She darted a nervous glance at Joanne, who was a little more composed. Training in law had, over the years, given her an excellent poker face.

"We were just heading down to the Life," she said evenly, smiling warmly without making another move to touch him. Like a wild animal, she reasoned, he would need his space. "You coming?"

"Ah… Sure. Why not?" Licking his lips, Mark twisted his hands together and shifted again. He knew that he was acting like a guilty child but there wasn't much else he could do. "Just… give me a minute?"

After a moment of helpless indecision, Maureen finally nodded and pulled Joanne back in the direction of the gate. "Sure," she agreed, still smiling, strained. "Be quick though."

The moment they were out of earshot Mark turned on his heel, desperately hoping for one last glimpse of Roger before he had to return to living company in the busy New York world. He had vanished into thin air, leaving no sign that he'd been there at all. And maybe he hadn't. Half-smiling bitterly, Mark briefly closed his eyes and shook his head.

So maybe no one else saw him and maybe common sense said that none of this was real. Mark would rather believe in the hallucination anyways.

The filmmaker rested one hand on the cold, smooth surface of Roger's headstone and brought the other up to finger the cool silver ring hanging from the chain around his neck. "Goodbye, Roger." His voice was little more than a whisper, all-too-aware of his other friends watching him from afar. They probably thought he was crazy… "I'll see you later."

With that, he turned to rejoin Maureen and Joanne, trying to ignore the pang as he left Roger's ghost- hallucination?- behind and the feeling that maybe the others were right about him.

But if he was crazy, he didn't see anything wrong with it.

After all- crazy kept Roger around, and that was alright by him.

And Beyond - 1/30
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Prologue
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger
Rated: M
It's the summer of 1994. Mark and Roger are closer than ever. The only problem... is that Roger has been dead for more than two months. Told between flashbacks, dreams and the confused present of Mark's mind, a tale of tragedy and the supernatural. Marker. Mark/Roger.
A/N: I'm actually really proud of this, and excited. I'm still working on it and it may be a long time before it's finished but I'd love if some LJ users gave me feedback! :)

His eyes are open, but nothing is visible but a yawning blackness stretching out before him where his room should be. Terrified baby blues widen as far as they can go, searching frantically for the old Well-Hungarians poster that had been hanging in his room for seven years and counting. For the nightstand beside his bed with his glasses laid carefully atop it. For the night light plugged into the outlet in the corner where no one else could see it, only him. Nothing. Nothing but black.

Mark wonders where he even is- he feels around for the sheets that he had been tangled in when he fell asleep the last he remembered, and instead he finds empty air. Patting around, he realizes that he is sitting on nothing at all when his hands meet his bare skin, thighs and then knobby knees, moving down to where his bed is supposed to be. It doesn't make a terrible lot of sense, but Mark is more focused on the ominous growling echoing from somewhere in front of him.

It was low and menacing, something like a large dog and a bulldozer if those two noises could cross. Images of snarling beasts, fanged and wild-eyed, flashed through the filmmaker's mind and he stifles a whimper with limited success. One of his hands flies up to cover his mouth, and he is relieved to find smooth skin caressing his lips.

Even if his hands are cold to the touch, alarmingly so, at least he has them. Unlike light, or a ground to stand on.

Just as he thinks that, there is a sudden falling sensation and a gasp is torn from his throat without warning. "Fuck-" He throws his arms out just in time to land braced on them on the asphalt, wincing as layers of delicate skin are torn from his elbows and the heels of his hands. Blood is already beginning to seep out, crimson welling to the surface, and he realizes that he can see again just as the first raindrop hits his temple and slides down the side of his downturned face. Eyebrows furrowed, face still screwed up in pain, the filmmaker casts his gaze to the sky. It is angry, full of dark clouds and crackles of lightning, and he predicts the rumble of thunder less than a second before he hears it.

As he gets up on one foot and pushes himself to his feet, swaying and disoriented, Mark looks around in an attempt to get his bearings. This is the city he knows, but not a part he's ever explored in all the years he's lived there. The brick of the buildings is mud-brown, ugly; the asphalt beneath his feet is too black, looking almost as though it could suck him in, a wormhole. Everything exists in sharp angles and harsh, unforgiving contrast. The lines painted on the road that he's standing in the middle of glow vivid orange, almost sinister against the darker palette of the landscape.

At first glance the street is empty- but Mark takes his first tentative step and they appear. Every person on the sidewalk is staring at the ground. They are deathly pale, lips bloodless, dressed in black cloaks that hang limply around their too-skinny forms. One of them feels him staring and glances up, and Mark sees that they are crying tears of blood, only the whites of their eyes visible. A wave of nausea sweeps over him and he jerks his head away, turning it towards the growling far in the distance.

The scene has changed again. The filmmaker is having a hard time keeping up- how is he supposed to know where the hell he is or what's going on if every time he turns his head it all melts into something else? He whips around wildly, muscles tensed to flee, and realizes that he is underground. This is the subway…

Those glowing orange stripes, the same ones that had painted the road before him only seconds ago, have followed him here and they provide the only source of light in this dark, dank place. It takes him a moment to realize that he should follow it; the light seems sickly, flickering dimly, but he's afraid that if he strays from it he'll be lost and never find his way to the living world on the surface. And Mark has never done well in small, dark places. He's nearly having a panic attack as it is.

Where is Roger? Where is Maureen or Joanne or Collins or Angel? Even Mimi might be of some help, even April, BENNY. Though he is "the rock", Mark doesn't know what he would do without all of his friends to help him, give him a purpose in life. He'd probably just drift- like now, lost in the darkness. He hopes that the orange light will lead him to someone, lead him to Roger if he had a choice, but any of them would do.

It seems like an eternity before he sees anything but darkness and that ominous jack-o-lantern reminiscent streak stretching before him. It is eerily silent except for the distant echo of what he hopes are his own footsteps and a slow, steady sound that he eventually figures out is his breath. But soon the growling starts again, without any warning at all. It's as if someone suddenly turned the dial on their stereo to full blast, and Mark can't even hear his own panicky thoughts when the orange light suddenly fills the tunnel ahead, flames shooting up out of the cracks in the concrete.

He probably could have dealt with that. Mark Cohen is a stoic enough person by nature and although he's had panic attacks before, been nervous and fidgety, that's usually when he's embarrassed rather than scared. There are only two things that are truly enough to frighten Mark: the first is the dark, and nobody knew that but Roger and his secret night light in the corner outlet. The second is-

"Mark! HELP!"

Roger's choked, desperate voice has him terrified in an instant. Heart struggling to restart after it's sudden halt, the bespectacled man steps forward and looks around anxiously for his friend, fists clenched at his sides. Half-moons will be dug into his palms if he keeps this up, bleeding and aching to the touch, but he doesn't care. Roger. Roger is in trouble and he has to find him.

"Mark, don't let them take me!" the guitarist's voice sobs, a nopte of fear in it that chills the filmmaker to the very bone. It seems to be coming from beyond the wall of flame only ten feet away from him, whose heat is oddly absent despite his proximity. "I didn't mean it!"

Didn't mean what? He wants to ask, but the answers are already shooting rapid-fire through his brain as he takes a hesitant step closer to the flame. The drugs, he didn't mean the heroin; all o fthe mistakes he'd made, April, he didn't mean that either; the hurt he'd caused his family, his friends, especially Mark- the bruises, the blood, the mental scars that would never be erased. He didn't meanit, didn't want to die for it.

If Mark had a say, Roger wouldn't be dying for anything.

"Roger?" The first word out of his mouth in this hellish place is, fittingly, his best friend's name. It sounds better, smoother when it swirls around unspoken in his brain; outside it becomes feeble, an echo. Roger couldn't possibly have heard that. He was pathetic- he had to try again. "Roger! Roger, stay there! I'm coming!"

Each word is weaker than the last, the final note trailing off barely audible beneath the roaring of the hungry flames which flare up in what Mark swears is a grotesque, laughing goblin's face. Horrified, he nevertheless takes another step forwards and feels the searing tongues lean towards him to lap at his fragile white tissues, tearing them clean off the bone. Although it hurts, it's nothing compared to the thought of losing Roger. He squints into the fire desperately even as his glasses melt right out of their frames and down his face like molten crystalline tears.

Where is Roger?

The piercing sound of a scream, hardly even human anymore, bounces off of the smooth subway walls and that's all it takes to send Mark sprinting into the unbearable heat. There was the strangest sensation of his remaining flesh dripping off him, milky water from his charred bones, but there were more important things at hand. Roger, where was Roger? The screams became louder, louder, and he thought that his ears would bleed. He had to be close. "Roger-!"

And then, suddenly, the flames were extinguished. Blackness descended around him and the pain radiating throughout his body following the paths of his veins and arteries intensified, making him cry out in agony. Blindly, Mark fell to his knees and fumbled, desperate for some source of light. He HAD to find Roger.

His hands met the cool, familiar metal of his camera and he sighed in temporary relief. He had his camera- somehow, that meant that everything would be okay. It had to be.

The relief was short-lived. All of a sudden, the nausea from earlier returned with a vengeance- halfway to his feet, Mark froze and despite his burned, mangled body he felt as though someone had doused him in icewater. With shaking, barely recognizable hands- the orange light had returned, sickly and sinister- he pressed a button on the camera that he'd never seen before and aimed it at the ground before him, peering through the lens.

The second thing he was afraid of was losing Roger…

There, in a heap on the ground, lay Roger Davis' guitar pick in a pile of ashes.

More Than A Theory - 7/7
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Make a Conclusion
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Marker! (Mark/Roger)
Rated: M
Collins is bored. He follows the steps of the scientific method to find the answer to the age-old question: Why is Mark single? Hilarity ensues. Eventual Mark/Roger!
A/N: This is my first chaptered fic... I need to revise it, but for now this is it.

It was a squeaking sound, like bedsprings, that caught Collins attention. That and the soft, familiar male voices that issued from beneath the door. He felt an incredulous grin creep onto his face. "No way," he murmured to himself, but yes, yes there actually was a great chance that he'd already guessed what was going on in the next room. Tiptoeing across the small stretch of cold floor, the anarchist leaned gently against the door and listened.

"Roger," came Mark's voice, breathy and on the verge of a moan. Collins bit the inside of his cheek to keep from giggling like one of Roger's old groupies. "Now? Collins is in the other room…"

"He hasn't noticed that you haven't been in your own room all week," Roger replied slyly. His companion's breath hitched as he gave a quiet laugh, and Collins didn't even pause to imagine what he was doing to the other man. As curious as he was… Did he want to know the details of his two friends' secret sex life?

Hardly a moment passed before images of Roger's fingers skillfully manipulating Mark's nipples as the smaller man writhed beneath him flooded his mind in a resounding YES.

"He's oblivious," Roger continued in that teasing tone of voice. The sexual energy in the room was practically leaking out from under the door as Mark gave a small whimper. The sound of the bedsprings squeaking ever so slightly was giving Collins the most graphic mental pictures. Most of them involved Roger's hands straying over Mark's bare chest and downwards towards the line of light blonde hair that lead to the filmmaker's crotch. "He won't notice… we can be quiet."

"Really?" Though he was still breathing too hard to be innocent, Mark's voice managed to have a sarcastic edge. "Because we've always been so QUIET before. Do you remember when we woke Mimi up that night-"

"That was all you, Marky boy," Roger laughed. He shifted and the bed squeaked some more. That noise was going to be imprinted on Collins mind forever as the sound of Mark and Roger getting it on. Great. "I wasn't the one screaming my name, was I?"

"I wasn't screaming," the filmmaker huffed in embarrassment. "I mean, I guess I was a little loud-"

"You know you were screaming my name," Roger said huskily, and the anarchist could imagine the shiver going down Mark's spine at his tone. It was so frustrating not being able to see anything; it left everything up to Collins overactive imagination, and that was NOT a good thing. He wondered if he could possibly open the door a crack without them catching on… "It's not your fault. I just know EXACTLY where to touch you…"

Eyes widening and mouth forming an "o" of surprise, Collins struggled not to laugh out loud at what he'd been hearing. He could hardly believe he'd never picked up on any of this in the past… Of course, the last time he'd been here, Roger had still been attached to his dancer, so he couldn't be faulted for not seeing the early signs. Still, he wished he had… this was a priceless moment.

"Oh, fuck… Roger!" Mark groaned, sucking in a sharp breath. Who knew what mischief Roger had gotten into now; whatever it was, it was pleasurable for the vocal recipient. "Please," he whimpered.

"Quiet," the rocker growled seductively. The sound of skin sliding on skin was enough to make Collins dark skin flush even darker. Were they really risking this when they knew Collins was in the house? That was a tad daring for Mark, but then again, if anyone could talk him into it, it was Roger. "Wouldn't want to wake Collins, would we?"

"God, no!" Mark sighed in horror. "That would be so- ROGER!" he squeaked louder. "We really shouldn't-!"

"Shhhhhh, you might wake Collins!" Roger taunted. Whatever the hell he was doing to Mark was causing him to spiral out of control rather quickly. Unable to resist any longer, Collins darted back into the filmmaker's room and snatched his camera up off of his otherwise bare dresser. He thought that he remembered how to use it… Mark had shown him once when he asked, happy to explain to someone who was genuinely interested in how his treasured camera worked.

Well, now was the time to test it out. He did his best to turn the contraption on, and when he'd gotten it right- or so he hoped- the anarchist pointed it at himself with an impish grin.

"You'll NEVER guess what's going on behind this door," he gushed in a whisper, pointing behind him briefly with one hand. "Actually, you probably could… I bet Mark has made at least ten sex tapes by now with Roger… Anyways." He cleared his throat, preparing himself for this victory speech to the camera. It was going to be the most hilarious thing when Mark watched this reel and discovered that Collins had found him out. He hoped, to the very depths of his heart, that he was still there when it happened. Mark's blushing was always spectacular, and it was bound to be even more so in this compromising position.

"Unbeknownst to my two friends in there, I've been doing my own little project the past week that I've been here. I got bored, so… I decided that it was about time I figured out why Mark was single still. I mean, come on. It's been almost two years since Maureen and from what I know he hasn't even had sex ONCE since!" He paused for emphasis and then continued, still straining to hear what was going on in the next room. Collins wanted to time this perfectly. "I st- INVESTIGATED for a few days and finally, two theories occurred to me. One," he ticked off on his fingers. "Was that Mark was a flamer. And two, he was in love with Roger."

"With the help of Joanne, we performed an experiment on Christmas Eve and all of the evidence pointed to my being absolutely RIGHT. Finally, I've come to this simple conclusion; Roger and Mark are together. And they've loved each other for a loooong time. Of course, when I come to talk to Mark about it- assuming he was still drunk enough to admit anything- his bedroom is EMPTY."

The triumphant smile on the anarchist's face and the increasingly loud bed-squeaking in the background would be enough for someone to piece together what was going on behind Roger's bedroom door. But Collins wanted to make sure he documented a special moment like this to the very best of his ability. Taking a chance, he set the camera on the floor, still running, and ever-so-carefully twisted the knob of Roger's door and pushed it inwards. It didn't even creak; success! Mark's incessant moaning became that much louder to his ears, unobstructed by the door, and he could see them in the candlelight. Of course Roger would keep a candle lit. He probably liked to see Mark's face twist in pleasure.

Picking the camera up gingerly, like the baby it was to Mark, he pointed it at his face once more to show the future audience his wicked grin before the real show started. "Needless to say, I went snooping… and this is what I found." The lens was redirected to the scene in Roger's room, which was better than Collins had even imagined. With his wrists bound together to the bedposts above his head, blonde head thrown back as he desperately twisted against them and groaned out Roger's name again and again, Mark lay in the middle of the bed stark naked and glasses-less. His legs were wrapped around roger's waist as the songwriter pounded him into the mattress, grunting.

"Fuck, Mark," he muttered as he thrust down particularly hard. Mark yelped, his begging reaching a crescendo. Just as they were about to reach their climax, Collins began his narration.

"December 25th, whatever the hell time it is in the morning Eastern Standard Time: Thomas B. Collins stumbles upon undeniable proof that he is a genius, because he was RIGHT. Enjoy the show, Marky," he laughed cheekily, and switched the camera off and shut the door behind him before replacing Mark's baby where he'd found it. As he padded down the hallway to his place on the couch, he yawned, and a thought struck him.

That was one question answered. But now… Now that that enigma was solved, he didn't have much of anything to do. And he was here a few more days…

Tom Collins, part time professor and full time vagabond anarchist, was bored.

And the cycle began to repeat itself.

More Than A Theory - 6/7
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Analyze the Data
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Marker! (Mark/Roger)
Rated: T for now
Collins is bored. He follows the steps of the scientific method to find the answer to the age-old question: Why is Mark single? Hilarity ensues. Eventual Mark/Roger!
A/N: This is my first chaptered fic... I need to revise it, but for now this is it.

When their party had dwindled to the three loftmates and the boys had gone to their rooms to sleep off the alcohol, Collins stayed up and stared hard at the several pages of careful, detailed notes he'd collected in his little black book that week. Mimi had dragged Maureen and Joanne down to her apartment, shouting something about "Girl sleepover, no boys allowed!" and giggling drunkenly as she stumbled down the stairs. Mark and Roger were, presumably, sleeping safe in their beds.

The anarchist was very aware that he didn't have long left here at the loft; in a day or two, he'd be forced to hop on a bus or in a taxi and make his way back to Maine. The job he'd procured there really was a steal, and he wasn't keen on losing it. So his little project would have to be finished soon, as soon as possible. He was too deep into it to just leave before figuring out if he was right.

The experiment had been a wonderful source of evidence for both of Collins' theories. Mark had been practically flamboyant all night long. There was no doubt left in the professor's mind that his young friend was gay. Now that he really thought about nit, was it even surprising? Mark was always shy and quiet around girls, never going out of his way to score dates or sex like Benny and Roger always had. Even with Maureen, he was never really very interested in sex. It was her who wanted it, and the filmmaker had just bemusedly let her take what she wanted in any way she wanted. He'd never actually told them all in so many words that he was hetero, anyways; he'd just let all of the other bohemians assume what they liked.

Then there was the issue with Roger. Collins couldn't say he would be overly shocked if he found that that one was true as well; even when the musician was in withdrawal, alternately sobbing, retching, yelling and hitting whatever was closest to him, Mark had stayed and remained patient with him. He was the only one who wasn't enraged when dark violet bruising bloomed in blotches across his cheekbone and in a finger-pattern that matched his roommates' hands perfectly when wrapped around his bare arms.

And if Mark was upset, for any reason, the first one he turned to was Roger. Everyone knew that Roger probably wasn't the best one to consult when you were having a problem. He was too awkward when it came to consoling someone hurting; he went about it the wrong way. Poking and prodding at it only made it sorer, teasing wasn't about to score him any points, and an arm around the shoulders wasn't the solution to every problem. Yet he did all of those things. He probably laughed when Mark told him that Maureen had left him for a woman- of course it was funny, but it was a sensitive issue Mark hadn't brought it up to JOKE about it- but still, knowing this would happen, the scrawny filmmaker went to Roger.

He wondered how he hadn't seen it before, the way Mark looked at the green-eyed rocker. Before, Collins had always taken it to be motherly concern. After all, the introvert was the center of their bohemian family, the one who held them together through all of their fights and makeups and breakups. But the gaze he reserved just for Roger was somehow warmer than the ones for Angel in the past, for Collins himself, for Maureen and Joanne and Mimi. It was almost the same longing that Mimi sometimes stared at him with now… no, exactly the same.

It was decided. Mark was in love with his roommate. Fact. Yet even as Collins solidified this in his mind, he was moving onto the next tangle of thoughts.

The boho boys' behavior that night had been much more suspicious than some unrequited love on Mark's part. What about the way Roger had practically DROOLED when his favorite blondie pulled on those skinny jeans? He obviously didn't think anyone had noticed when his hand "accidentally" brushed the pale, skinny man's ass and made Mark jump two feet in the air with a squeal as they walked into the Life. But Collins had. And taken note, as he had with everything this past week.

What was going on here? There had never been a question of Roger's sexuality before. He was a self-proclaimed Rock God. He'd come to the city at seventeen for, quote, "booze, music and pussy". There was a string of stunning girls on his record, and that was BEFORE the groupies came into the picture. Then April, with her vibrant eyes rimmed with dark eyeliner and silky red hair falling around her face in the most alluring manner; Mimi, whose big brown eyes and entire body screamed "SEX!" in her stripper clothes and seductive smiles.

Roger couldn't possibly be attracted to men. He'd always raved about the sex he'd gotten in his glory days as an indie rocker in the clubs of New York City. It was unfathomable to think that the entire time he'd been lying; impossible, actually. Roger was a horrible liar, especially to Collins, who he always got nervous lying to. He knew the anarchist would see through him every time. And because of that, Collins knew that Roger wasn't averse to a few breasts and vaginas.

There's such a thing as bisexual. Especially in NYC, this wasn't uncommon. The anarchist would never have pegged the ex-junkie as bi, not when he loved his name screamed at him from scantily clad women so much, but he'd come to believe anything was possible in this godforsaken city. People didn't always conform to expectations. Roger, for one, never had. He'd always been a rebel, always defied everyone's assumptions about him. Perhaps he'd done that with his sexuality as well.

And the kiss… No, the complete makeout session that Roger and Mark had had on the floor right in front of everyone. Yeah, that. It had to be taken into consideration that Roger had initiated that. Mark was the one he'd been watching, and he lust in his eyes was evident not only in him but in Roger as well. Both of the boys had seemed completely comfortable finding the other's tongue in their mouth. Judging from the situation going on below the waist for both of them, they were enjoying it immensely… and there hadn't even been an awkward glance between them afterwards. Didn't that say something?

They couldn't have given him a clearer sign. Collins felt his eyes widening as the realization hit him, and he feverishly scrambled for a pen to jot down his thoughts on another fresh page. HOW HAD HE MISSED THIS BEFORE?

RogerandMark. MarkandRoger. It was sort of a joke among the other bohemians to refer to the roommates like this, combining their names to symbolizing the inseparable bond the two had always seemed to share. What if that bond was more?

Collins wasted no time shoving his notebook back into his duffel bag and tossing his pen off to wherever it chose to land. He tried to slow down his excited heartbeat as he shuffled down the hallway, trying not to make too much noise in approaching the filmmaker's door. He didn't want to wake the songwriter as well. This was a conversation he wanted to have with Mark. A question he wanted to ask, rather.

"Mark?" he whispered, reaching out to rap his knuckles on the door. It gave and pushed inwards with a creak; Mark had left it open? That was odd… Collins peered inside curiously. From what he could see in the darkness, the bed was flat and empty.

That was when he heard the sounds issuing from Roger's bedroom.

More Than A Theory - 5/7
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Perform an Experiment (Pt 2)
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Marker! (Mark/Roger)
Rated: T for now
Collins is bored. He follows the steps of the scientific method to find the answer to the age-old question: Why is Mark single? Hilarity ensues. Eventual Mark/Roger!
A/N: This is my first chaptered fic... I need to revise it, but for now this is it.

This truly was a puzzle. That much filtered through Collins alcohol-hazed mind as Maureen tipped the bottle of Stoli and refilled the bohemians' shot glasses one by one. Even Joanne had relaxed enough to have a drink or two when they came crashing back into the loft, swearing and laughing too raucously. They were already buzzed after their brief stint at the Life Café, which only ended after they were kicked out- predictably, for pushing tables together and dancing them while starting up a rowdy musical number with the other diners.

And now they were back at the loft, sitting on the dusty floor in a circle around their entire stash of alcoholic beverages, each with a questionably clean shot glass in hand filled with amber liquid. Yeah, maybe they were considered too old for party games like "I've Never", but it was Christmas Eve and they were bohemians, dammit! If there was any night they should live a little, it was this one. Jesus would approve.

It was too bad that Collins wasn't a Christian and Mark was Jewish. Oh well. Did they ever honestly need a reason to get drunk?

"I," Roger started, grinning far too widely to be entirely sober. "Have never eaten a chick out." Maureen and Mimi both tipped back their glasses with no hesitation, laughing with each other as they'd been doing for most of the day, and Joanne did as well, albeit in a quieter fashion. The anarchist thought he saw a bit of a flush on her dark cheeks, but he wasn't focused enough to really care if he'd imagined it. When he returned his attention to Roger, the rocker was staring openly at his ex-girlfriend.

"When- nevermind," he mumbled, obviously quite perturbed by this new information. Mimi stuck out her tongue childishly, refilling her glass.

"Don't ask if you don't want to know, baby." After a pause and a thoughtful look, the curly-haired Latina gave the group around her a positively evil smirk. "I've never given a rimjob."

And that's where things got REALLY shocking.

No one could be surprised when Maureen drank to that; frankly, Collins thought that she'd probably done pretty much everything they could possibly mention in this game. Maureen was always the drunkest one at the end of a game like this.

And Collins, well, he was gay and he wasn't going to be condemned for this anyways. Being bohemian meant sexual freedom, and he didn't give a flying fuck what other people thought of it anyways. Mimi gave him a raised eyebrow, but then… then they were all stuck in a fixed expression of dumb shock.

Mark looked around sheepishly, ducked his mussed blonde head, and quickly downed his glass.

All hell broke loose.

"MARKYYYY!" Maureen wailed, throwing herself out of her seat in Joanne's lap on top of her former lover. Normally her fiancée would have something to say about this, but Jo was as speechless as the rest of them at Mark's unwilling admission. As they watched, his cheeks flamed to the brightest shade of fire engine red any of them had ever seen. "Whenwas thiiiis? How come I don't know about it?"

Though her words were starting to slur together, they all knew what she was saying, because the same thing was on all of their minds. The filmmaker, always the introvert, was staring at the floor in a poor attempt at nonchalance. "It was, uh…" He coughed, shaking his head as if to clear it, and his sky-blue eyes gained a new determination as he twisted his fingers together in his lap and changed the subject.

"I've never…"


At some point, one of them pulled out a deck of cards. It was probably Mimi; in her time at the CatScratch, she'd been slipped some very interesting tips. A deck of cards wouldn't even be unusual for her to find in her panties after a night of "dancing".

Joanne and Maureen had taken their own private party to the corner, and even though it was only partially illuminated by the candles the Latina had lit, Collins was sure he could see part of Maureen's white ass. Quickly, he looked back to his cards in front of him; as free as he liked sexuality to be, his friends deserved some privacy while they were getting it on. And judging by the soft moaning sounds coming from the corner, they definitely were.

It wasn't long until the game was over- none of them were huge poker fans anyways- but the fact that they'd been playing strip poker wasn't overlooked. Actually, it became very VERY apparent as Mo and Jo rejoined them, looking thoroughly ravished, for their next activity.

It wasn't surprising that they'd emptied a bottle of Stoli. Joanne, in an uncharacteristic display of mischief, was the one to suggest they play Spin the Bottle. All of them were mostly naked at this point; Mimi, surprisingly, had the most clothes on of any of them- she'd turned out to have a suspiciously talented poker face. But Roger had definitely fared the worst. Between the three of them, Mimi, Mark and Collins had stripped the poor musician down to a pair of black socks and his old blue boxers that Collins remembered back from the April days and before.

Collins was proud to still have his pants on, something none of the rest of them had accomplished. Mark's new pair of skinny jeans, purchased earlier from the vendor at the girl's encouragement- as well as Roger's, his mind whispered to him smugly- were tossed into the corner his ex had occupied with her girlfriend not so long ago. His new form-fitting t-shirt was still on, but rumpled after their repeated attempts to remove it. Mimi's blue spandex was long gone, and in his drunken state, Collins wasn't even sure if that was because of the poker game.

Mimi took the first spin. The glass bottle distorted the flickering candlelight in the most interesting ways as it spun, mesmerizing the professor until it came to a stop with the long neck pointing at… Roger. The Feline of Avenue B, normally so relaxed in situations like this, was stiff and awkward as she leaned in and gave her ex-boyfriend a quick peck on the lips. He was grimacing as she pulled away, and he wiped his mouth subtly on the back of his sleeve as he reached over to take his own spin.

It landed on Collins; the anarchist barked out a laugh as Roger's face flamed almost as bright as Mark's had earlier for a reason Collins barely remembered now. "Bring it, you pussy," he taunted, and the guitarist darted in to mash their lips together for the barest moment before pulling away.

"Disgusting," he drawled, making a face. Mark snorted in laughter. "Your turn, Tom."


The game continued for what seemed like forever, and Collins was disappointed to find that against all odds, the two other boho boys had not yet been forced to kiss. It wasn't until their spinning was slowing down, wordlessly approaching the end of their night out, that anything particularly interesting happened concerning Mark Cohen and Roger Davis.

What people tended to forget about Mark was that, although he was a shy person when sober, he was a terribly easygoing drunk. He got comfortable with his situation no matter what it was; when Maureen slipped her tongue devilishly past his lips, he just pulled away laughing loudly. When Mimi plopped her down in his lap and attempted to give him a lap dance (which was completely Joanne's idea, though she wouldn't admit it) he just pulled her off of him and poked her in the forehead with a content smile. He was not, however, usually a very boisterous drunk. That was always Maureen; SHE was the wild one. Not Marky boy.

Except tonight he was, and in the most… interesting way.

It was the situation that the tall black man had been waiting in painful anticipation for all night; the pinnacle of his research. Time seemed to slow down as the bottle left Mark's hand and spun, spun, spun around the circle, slowing to a stop pointing dead center at none other than his green-eyed roommate.

The change in his face was almost comical; from a relaxed grin to a rather owlish look of surprise as he slowly trailed his eyes upwards from the offending Stoli bottle to Roger's knees, which were right beside him, and up from there. Collins couldn't help but notice the way that Mark's eyes lingered on Roger's thighs, or perhaps the bulge in between them, and then on the muscles of his chest until they reached his face.

Tentatively- and probably very conscious that everyone in the room seemed to be holding their breath as they watched in amusement and interest- the young filmmaker scooted closer to Roger until there was almost no space between their bare legs. The anticipation was palpable. His complexion was light pink in embarrassment as he bit his lip lightly, bracing himself, and finally lunged to capture the guitarist's own chapped lips.

Roger, for lack of a better word, pounced.

Now, Collins knew from Mimi's detailed descriptions in past drunken nights like this one, that Roger was a sex fiend. And none more so than when he was drunk as a bitch, which he happened to be at that moment. It really showed.

In a short three seconds, Mark had been flung onto the ground roughly and his body covered with Roger's as the taller man did everything short of straddle him and rip his clothes off. Roger's green eyes had darkened to a thin emerald band around huge dilated black pupils, and Mark's had done the same; Collins was probably the only one to notice this sign of physical attraction. The rest of them were probably focused on the clear outline of an erection in Mark's plaid boxers.

Roger pressed their lips together fervently, nibbling at the younger man's lips seductively as he pinned him to the floor beneath him and allowed his hands to roam under the introverted filmmaker's shirt. The motion, coupled with the feeling of Roger's tongue at his slightly parted lips before it forced itself inside uninvited, though certainly not unwanted, made the ginger-blonde boy groan.

And almost as suddenly as it had started, it was over. Roger pulled himself up and off of his roommate, looking like the cat who's had the cream in the smugness radiating off of his being and the huge smirk covering his face. Mark, slightly disoriented from the sudden assault, sat up a bit slower and leaned against the other man for support for a second before regaining his bearings.

Blushing and muttering feverishly, Mark fixed his crooked glasses and gestured to the bottle. "Your turn," he mumbled to Roger. The musician gave him a lewd grin before complying. The night, or early morning, progressed smoothly once more and no one questioned the scene they'd just witnessed.

Collins wondered if he was the only one noticing these figurative neon signs flashing from the two men in front of him. Though he tried to stop thinking about it, for the rest of the night the sight of Roger's body on top of the filmmaker's was burned into his brain.

More Than A Theory - 4/7
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
Chapter Title: Perform an Experiment (Pt 1)
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Marker! (Mark/Roger)
Rated: T for now
Collins is bored. He follows the steps of the scientific method to find the answer to the age-old question: Why is Mark single? Hilarity ensues. Eventual Mark/Roger!
A/N: This is my first chaptered fic... I need to revise it, but for now this is it.

The day before Christmas Eve, Collins rapped his knuckles sharply on the elegant mahogany door of Joanne Johnson's apartment and sat back on his heels to wait. To say that the building Maureen and Joanne inhabited was magnificent compared to the loft on Avenue B would be the understatement of the century. The hallways were brightly lit, with paisley green wallpaper decorating the walls and thick blue carpeting underfoot. The anarchist had half a mind to take off his shoes and sink his toes into the luxurious material, but managed to restrain himself.

It also had heat, which, as far as Collins was concerned, sealed the deal.

A moment later, the black lawyer appeared in the doorway dressed in a crisp black tuxedo. Her hair was falling messily out of its bun, and only one of her short heels was on, suggesting that she might have been getting ready for work when Collins had arrived. "Oh, Tom!" she greeted warmly, beckoning him inside without a second thought. "I don't have long- maybe half an hour. But is there something I can do for you?"

"This won't take long," the taller man promised, wiping his sneakers self-consciously on the welcome mat before following Joanne into the living room. He sat on the nearest couch and she sat in a plush armchair across from him, clasping her hands together. "I need your help with something. It's about Mark."

"Does it have anything to do with you stalking him into the Life the other day?" she asked, amusement touching her voice. He stared at her for a moment and she gave him a mischievous smile that reminded the professor far too much of Maureen. "Don't worry, he didn't see you. I didn't mention it. Most stalkers don't want to be seen, right?"

"Thanks," he sighed in relief. "Yes, actually, it does… Joanne, could I ask you, what do you think of Mark? Do you ever get the feeling he might, ah… Play for the other team?" Her eyes flickered with recognition, and as he watched she suddenly leant forward with a devious grin.

"So, I'm not the only one who thinks so?" she stage-whispered. Collins smiled widely back at her and shook his head. "What's the plan?"

"Well, I've been observing him the past few days, and I have this theory…"


"December 24th, 10 am, Eastern Standard Time," Mark narrated, pointing his camera into the throngs of people pressing in around the bohemians. Thankfully, Collins had chosen the perfect day for their excursion; not only were all the street vendors out selling their wares in hopes of earning enough for a good meal for the holidays, but the sun was actually visible overhead, watery though it was.

It had been easy enough to convince Mark to accompany them, as he was always looking for opportunities to film the camera-shy people on the street; effortless to convince Maureen and Mimi, because the two of them were notorious for their shopping obsession. Roger was another story. Without his weakness for Mimi's doe eyes, they'd had to literally drag him out of the loft kicking and screaming. "SHOPPING?" he'd hollered as Collins took one of his legs and Mark the other. "Roger Davis does not go SHOPPING for FUN!"

But in the end they'd gotten him onto the street, and when he'd felt the infinitesimal warmth of the sun on his pale skin he'd relaxed his loud protests to a low grumble. As they perused Avenue B, looking curiously at all of the different stalls- there a young woman selling questionable mugs, there an ancient-looking man sitting behind a box with a few possibly stolen pieces of jewelry scattered on top of it- Collins and his new accomplice took note of their companions.

Maureen, attached to her pookie as always, was very easily excited; she kept pulling Joanne ahead of the group, shouting about some sparkly or otherwise interesting object. Mimi was laughing at her antics as she walked beside the couple, while Joanne gave the two other women exasperated glances every few seconds. Collins took the back of the group, watching with growing certainty in his hypotheses the two men in front of him.

Mark was a big teddy bear, really; all of the bohemians knew that. He loved physical contact, although he often seemed to be emotionally detached. If you ever wanted a hug or a comforting warmth beside you while you fell asleep, Mark was your guy. So it wasn't all that suspicious that the ginger-blonde filmmaker was walking so close to his roommate that their arms were touching. It struck Collins as something he should record, however; that and the pink flush that stayed on his cheeks, and the happiness radiating from him as Roger and he joked around.

Collins fought off a grin. They were just TOO CUTE.


It wasn't all that long before he and Joanne had lead them to their destination; a well-known clothing vendor who annually sold the latest trends during the holiday season outrageously cheap to the homeless in Alphabet City who could afford it. The vendor was a middle-aged dark-skinned woman who looked like a real survivor, the crinkling around her eyes when she smiled a testament to her age and exhaustion. She greeted them profanely, though not unkindly.

"You bitches lookin' for some pretty clothes, you sure know where to come!" she said boomingly. Gesturing to the several open boxes around her stall, which unlike others they had seen actually had a stool behind it, she continued. "Go ahead and if you see somethin' ya like, throw me a fuckin' dolla'."

Mimi dived into the nearest box, Maureen hot on her heels, with a squeal of delight and pulled out a pair of knee-high leather heeled boots. Collins rolled his eyes, pausing to exchange an amused look with Joanne, and then turned his attention to his roommates.

Roger leaned coolly against the wall of the anonymous brick building nearest to them, trying to look annoyed and emotionless at the same time. Annoyance was winning out. His dirty-blond hair was curling into his eyes in, dare Collins think it, the most adorable way. Mark probably thought so, too; he kept casting obvious glances in the guitarist's direction as he absently filmed the giggling girls throwing scarves over each other's necks. Finally, he lowered the camera.

"Rog, will you hold this?" he called, giving Roger the most heartwarming blue-eyed puppy eyes anyone has ever seen. The musician scowled playfully and moved forward, then tripped over one of the more forlorn boxes at his feet. He caught himself with one hand before smashing his face into the asphalt, swearing. The filmmaker's eyes were glued to his ass.

Success. That was a definite sign that Collins and Jo were on the right track. He turned to find her staring straight at him, her dark eyes lit up with the same triumph he felt. She nodded back to them, and Collins remembered he was supposed to be observing still.

His gaze returned to find Mark pulling off sweater, apparently oblivious to the December chill, and exposing his pale torso and alert pink nipples to the world before pulling a ripped, tight-fitting black t-shirt over his head. It flattered the contours of his body, Collins had to admit; he wasn't as much of a fashionista as his Angel, but he would readily say that the shirt was a step up from Mark's closet full of drab sweaters. Now if only he put on a pair of jeans that fit the lower half of him as well as the top, the look would be complete.

The slack-jawed look on Roger's stubbly face as Mark pulled off his pants in favor of a pair of black skinny jeans was priceless. But then again, it also gave Collins something to think about. Wasn't it Mark's sexuality he was supposed to be questioning?

This experiment was going better than he'd ever dreamed… Now it was time for round two.