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Practice Makes Perfect- 13/15
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
kisstheboy7
Chapter Title: Positive
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger, Marker (what else?)
Rated: Back to T
Summary:
Mark finally comes out to his friends, but he's still a little nervous about this whole gay thing. Does he even know HOW to be gay? The bohos, especially Roger, decide to help him out. Funny, slashy. Eventual Mark/Roger.
A/N: Posting posting pooooosting... God, it's going to take forever and a half to get everything over here from ff.net.

Chapter Thirteen: Positive

All of the blood flowing to Roger's head wasn't helping him think at all. It was, in fact, making him dizzy and even a little nauseous… Well. There's another one of his shitty theories out the window.

The former gloryhound could be found on his back with half of his body dangling over the edge of his less-than-comfortable hotel standard mattress, eyes shut tightly in an attempt to shut the world out and arms hanging limply at his sides. His room was a disaster area, the contents of his bag strewn carelessly and bedding lying in heaps on the floor. Small, untidy piles of unwashed laundry joined them. The guitar in the corner, propped against the wall, observed the pathetic scene forlornly from beneath a fine layer of dust.

It was unfortunate that Roger had only had enough money to make it to Boston, because it hadn't given him quite enough distance from Mark to stay entirely sane. If he had thought that the guilt was killing him in New York, he was unpleasantly surprised by what Boston had in store for him.

Months. He'd been in this strange, foreign city for months, two of them, and time hadn't flown as he'd hoped it would. It trickled sluggishly in tiny increments, almost like molasses. Roger was fraying at the edges, dark circles surrounding his eyes that had nothing to do with his eyeliner, and sleep offered him no refuge. Any dreams he had quickly became nightmares, or worse- dreams of Mark, of the city and all of the friends he left behind. He was miserable. And the worst part was that he had no choice but to stay that way.

Misery was never the desired effect- it was just a symptom without a cure. He'd realized by the time he boarded the first bus out of New York that his real addiction was alive and well. Fuck heroin- that was nothing compared to this. Nothing. Mark withdrawal was real hell, complete with fiery tongues of guilt lapping at his skin, leaving invisible burns and searing his soul. Of all of the things he'd endured coming down off of smack, Mark's absence trumped them all.

The dizziness grew stronger, and with a grunt Roger swung himself back upright and waited for it to pass. God, he was tired… Even when he did manage to sleep, nothing changed. Mark wasn't there when he woke up and he didn't hate himself any less. The days blended together in one huge mass of gray and black, the only colors that Roger seemed to see anymore except for the scarlet pain that shot through him at the thought that he might never see his best friend ever again.

The job he'd gotten at the convenience store on the corner barely provided enough for his hotel room and the occasional cigarette, but he wasn't really hungry. The empty feeling in his chest had nothing to do with his eating habits, and there was nothing that he could do to make it go away.

Roger Davis was depressed, plain and simple. Depressed and in love- he knew the feeling well.

"I'm not your friend, Mark!"

His own voice echoed harshly in the confines of his skull, making him grimace and open his eyes to stare dully at the drab white walls. Sighing, the guitarist reached down with chipped-polished nails to grab at anything that might make him a little warmer. The hotel was heated, more so than the loft had ever been, but somehow he still found himself shivering with cold. His hands grasped at the wooly material of a green scarf and he wrapped it around his neck, feeling the tears gather once more in the corners of his eyes.

Mark was probably back at home surrounded by their friends and already moving on. Forgetting him. He had Collins, he had Mimi and Maureen and Joanne, his camera… He'd be fine. He didn't need Roger nearly as much as he thought he did. He didn't love Roger as much as he thought he did. Mark was a trooper- he'd get over it, go to Life Support, get his test results and move on with his life. Make a movie. He was going to be perfectly fine.

The question was- would Roger?

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

Mark was doing a lot better than he had hoped. Of course, that could have been because no one would ever leave him alone.

"Marky. Mark. Mark. C'mon, Cohen, sit up and talk to us huh?" Collins was insistently poking him in the arm, grinning from ear to ear. Whether or not he was high was an excellent question, but not one that Mark had the energy to ask. He was lodged between Collins and a sulky Maureen on his own crappy couch, clutching his camera so tightly in his lap that he was a little afraid it might break, and the only thing he could do was cast Collins a withering glance and shake his head.

The black man frowned and jabbed him again, and his face contorted in a wince. For some reason, the past few weeks had been awful- he was bruising like a grape, and even Collins' friendly nudges were painful. The results weren't in quite yet, but they would be coming any day, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he already knew the dreaded results.

Two months Roger had been gone, and the cracks were beginning to show.

"Maaaaark."

"I don't have anything to say." His voice was painfully meek, and he winced and cleared his throat before continuing. "Sorry… I-"

The phone rings and everyone stops to look towards it warily. Lately, none of the calls have been good- and none of them have been the one Mark wanted, either. Every time the phone rang he was further disappointed when, instead of Roger, it was-

"Hi, Cindy," Collins said, cradling the phone to his ear and smiling a little as he stared into space. "Mark's right- clinic?"

"Give me that!" Mark scrambled over Maureen so fast he let his camera fall to the ground and was briefly distraught over the crack he heard on impact- but now wasn't the time! He couldn't be concerned over his camera whether it was his baby or not. This could be one of the calls he had been waiting for…

"Hello?" Paralyzed with fear, he knew that his knuckles were white but he couldn't care less as he clutched the phone like it was his only lifeline. He waited in breathless anticipation for the voice on the other end to say something, anything at all. He had to know. Had to, had to, had to. "This is Mark Cohen."

"Mister Cohen! Hello," replied a woman's voice warmly. He recognized it- it was the nurse from the clinic. This was it. The moment of truth… Awkwardly unable to reposition himself he remained half in Maureen's lap, breathing shallowly and trying to calm the roaring of blood in his ears. "Your results are in. The ones from the HIV test that you took a few months back?"

"Yes?" There was nothing else to say and he knew it sounded terribly squeaky, but he couldn't help being scared. The filmmaker had already lost his best friend, and now he was going to find out if he was losing his well-being as well. "So-"

"We'd like you to come down to the clinic as soon as possible to retrieve them." Was it just him, or did she sound a little bit sympathetic? Did that mean- no. He had to think positively. Weakly, Mark nodded and then belatedly realized that she couldn't see him.

"That's fine. I'll be right down."

"I'll see you then. Have a nice day, Mr. Cohen."

Trembling near-violently, he handed the phone back to Collins to put on the receiver, feeling nauseous. The other members of the group were staring at him in confusion and he remembered that they didn't, with the exception of Collins, know anything about his predicament. If Mark Cohen couldn't keep a secret then nobody could. But, he supposed, it was time to tell them the truth of the matter…

"Um- Mo? Col?" he mumbled, staring down at the dusty wooden floor and snatching his camera back up, stroking it like it was his own child. He needed all of the comfort he could get right now. "I have to um- I-" At a loss for words, he trailed off and closed his eyes.

"What's wrong pookie?" Maureen attempted to force his chin up with her hands, a look of concern pooled in her brown eyes. A moment ago she had been totally preoccupied by her most recent fight with Joanne, who was still at work, but Mark was her first priority. He smiled inwardly at that, glad to know he had at least one friend that wouldn't abandon him.

"I have to go down to the clinic. You don't have to come."

"Why? Sup, white boy?" Collins was similarly worried, shifting closer and slinging an arm around Mark's shoulders. It only made the position more uncomfortable but he appreciated it nonetheless. "Nothing bad, I hope?"

"Ah… Well. I don't know… Guys? I didn't tell you why Roger really left…"

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

"One song, glory…"

Hot water was supposed to make everything seem better, right? Roger stood stock still as it beat on his back, his neck, and he had to admit that it was a tiny bit relaxing. But the fact remained that he didn't know what the fuck he was going to do next.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he brushed a few dripping strands of bleached hair back and vaguely remembered that he meant to get it cut sometime soon. He wondered what his band mates were doing, all the way back in the city- actually, that was a lie. He wondered what MARK was doing all the way back in the city and he band mates were only a footnote. Damn it Roger, you're a hopeless son of a bitch.

With a sigh, he tipped his head back and closed his eyes, shutting out the sight of the questionable dark stain in the corner of the white porcelain tub and crooning the next words. "One song, before I go…" A year ago, two, these words would have been a warm-up to his next brainstorming session. He might have come up with another song or ten and come out on the other side exhausted but satisfied. Now, they felt empty. "One song…. No."

Angrily, he grabbed at the bar of soap and squeezed it into a twisted shape. When he looked down at his creation he was pleased to see the shape of his fingers squished into it. Maybe the next person would see them and wonder.

Washing himself seemed pointless nowadays, but Roger didn't want to be the gross dirty guy and so he started to lather the mangled soap into his skin, chewing his lip absently as he did so. His mind was still spinning, spinning, images of Mark's smile and the glint on his glasses in the light flying past like a hurricane of memories. Should he write Mark a song? It had worked before, with other girls…

He really had to stop thinking of Mark that way.

Okay, Roger, you're digging yourself deeper. Stop... Stop… Damn it, FUCKING STOP!

No. He wouldn't write him a song. Not Mark. Mark wasn't some stripper downstairs or a groupie at a club. Mark was- was HIS. His Mark. He liked the sound of that. And HIS Mark didn't need a cheesy love song. He needed…

He needed an apology.

Roger opened his eyes, pausing in his lathering, and without even noticing the mold growing in the corner he smiled.

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

On a park bench, Mark sat clenching his fists so tightly around a single white sheet of paper that it nearly ripped. It was glossy and printed with neat black letters.

Patient Cohen, Mark

HIV status: +

The world seemed to be swaying around him- he knew he was on land, but it felt as though he was rocking on the ocean waves. And Mark got seasick easily. No matter how hard he stared, the letters were still there- stark, black and white contrast. No gray area. No uncertainty. There it was.

That little black plus mark would haunt him for the rest of his life.

ROGER would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Mark stopped, closing his eyes and smiling bitterly. Life. The rest of his life… How long was that, exactly? Not very. Maybe ten years more.

The funny thing was, Mark didn't care about the disease, or the lifespan. He would be happy to drop dead right there on the bench if it weren't for one thing. Roger. He was the one who had passed the death sentence to him, but he wasn't there for the unveiling. Where was he? Somewhere far away, he imagined. San Francisco, maybe, or Los Angeles. Roger had always wanted to move someplace sunnier. Now he had his opportunity. He could go wherever he wanted.

But Mark couldn't go anywhere. Not while they were still fighting.

Forcing himself to release his vice grip, he watched in morbid fascination as the paper fluttered to the ground. Far away, it looked so innocent- not like a death sentence at all. It could be anything. A child's drawing. A receipt.

Collins and Maureen were probably frantic by now. He hadn't let them come, in the end. He was nervous enough without their added anxiety on his shoulders- and, secretly, he didn't trust them not to hate Roger if it came out positive. Roger may have run off and left him with some of his baggage, but at least he left SOMETHING this time. Mark couldn't help but love him for it….

Wait.

Love?

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

Roger Davis was scribbling furiously on the reciept for a candy bar he'd eaten earlier. Around him, everyone was uncomfrotably silent, as they tended to be on city busses. Unaware, he paused, snorted and shook his head before beginning again.

Dear Mark…