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Practice Makes Perfect- 14/15
RENT, slash, Marker, Mark, Roger
kisstheboy7
Chapter Title: A Poet Returns
Fandom: RENT
Pairing: Mark/Roger, Marker (what else?)
Rated: Sort of M...
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 Fourteen: A Poet Returns

Dear Mark…

I feel like such an asswipe. Really, man, I'm a huge dick- no pun intended. I mean, unless YOU think so, then it's a different story.

All joking aside, though.

I hope you know I left to keep you safe. Not because I wanted to. But seriously. If you're negative- I like to think optimistically when I can- then I'm not gonna risk your life for some stupid makeout session. Come on. You're smarter than that, Mark. You have a lot of life left to live.

Anyways, I'm stopping by just to make sure you know that I still love you wherever I am. (I won't tell you because I don't trust your stupid ass not to come and try to find me.)

Actually, I'm thinking of you all the time. It's driving me nuts. I miss everyone but especially you. It sucks where I am right now. I think I really just wanted an excuse to come check on you… and see the city again.

I hope that you're doing okay. Finish another movie and move on, alright? Don't waste your time on me. I'm far away by now and I don't intend to come back unless I have no choice.

Say hi to Collins for me, and tell Jason and Mimi I wish them a happy life together. Mo and Jo, too.

You can have any eyeliner that I left behind. You actually looked kind of cute with it on.

I take back anything I said about dating Travis. DON'T DATE TRAVIS. Don't even go near him, he's a sick fuck and all he wants to do is tie you up and fuck you- and I know it might SOUND good to you but trust me. No. I don't want you near him. That's not what I call keeping safe.

Stay out of alleys, too. I'm not around to kick people's asses for you anymore.

I'm running out of room but that's probably for the best. I love you Marky. I hope you don't hate me for this- but then again, it might be best if you did.

Roger

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

The bus jerked to a stop and Roger nearly fell out of his seat onto the muddy, slushy floor. He grunted at the painful angle this had left him in and blearily cracked his eyes open.

Life in Boston hadn't been much, and now that he was back in New York Roger doubted he would ever be able to leave again. He'd predicted as much- that's why he'd checked out of the hotel with a second thought, collecting all of his shit and hopping on the nearest bus to the Big Apple. Roger may have been impulsive as all fuck but at least he knew that about himself. Cracking his neck, the guitarist hoisted his guitar and his duffel bag up and stumbled out of the worn seat, slipping a little and catching himself on the back of the next seat, disturbing an old woman and what looked to be her grandchild. They gave him baleful, sleep-deprived looks and he smiled a little at his own innate talent in being able to sleep on any semi-flat surface.

The rocker got off of the bus and felt an overwhelming sense of homecoming as his sneaker hit the cracked gray pavement for the first time in two months. He stood for a moment on the street corner and looked around, observing everything from the way the old pieces of chewed gum made a rainbow of dots across the span of the concrete and the pinkish tint to the New York skyline at dawn. His heart seemed to lift in his chest, lungs filling with New York air and exhaling in a gust that smelled just like he remembered it.

Fuck it. He was home.

Striding down the sidewalk, Roger licked his lips and tried to kick the craving for a cigarette. New York always made him want to smoke, but that probably had something to do with the fact that he'd picked up the habit on his first night there. His mind, still half-asleep, concocted plans that later wouldn't seem like such good ideas but for now seemed fantastic.

Okay- so he couldn't stay in the loft anymore. And he couldn't tell Mark where he was… Or let him know that he was there at all. Leaving him a letter seemed like it might be defeating that purpose. But Roger couldn't control his impulses any more than he could control Mark's, and this was something he had to do.

But he could get his own apartment… He wouldn't even have to go that far. The fog was slowly lifting, but the more he thought about it the better it seemed, and the grin was growing on his face. (and probably making passerby nervous with its width.) Avenue B wasn't the only place in the city with apartments for rent, and the Civilians weren't the only band he could be a part of.

If he started looking now, he might be able to blow some of his extra time until Mark would conceivably be out of the house…

The receipt with his letter scrawled across it burned a hole through his pocket, making him squirm with guilt and anticipation. The thought of bumping into Mark did as well, but he was doing his best not to think of that. His feet carried him on the familiar path through the city towards his favorite street.

Avenue B had better watch out, because the last remaining member of the Well-Hungarians was back for good.

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

"… And so anyways, Maria's all moved out and our parents are FURIOUS."

Mark tried his very best not to look bored, leaning on his elbows on the table and blankly staring out of the window to his left. His chin rested on his hands, fingers tugging absently on strands of his ginger-blonde hair. Mimi's family drama was the last thing he wanted to hear about right now. Then again, most things were the last thing he wanted to hear about- with the exception of Roger, who was the first. If Roger had happened to pass outside the windows of the Life Café right now, Mark would have been out of their booth and flying out the door in four seconds flat.

Unfortunately, he was trapped where he was. Mimi wasn't letting him go anywhere. It was her shift; Collins had taken his yesterday after Mark had first broken the news to everyone, and from what he gathered tomorrow Joanne would be stopping by. To be honest, the filmmaker wished that everyone would just back up and give him some space. All of his friends seemed to think that he couldn't deal with the news of his sickness by himself. Granted, it was big news- but the way they were treating him, like everyone used to treat Roger during the first irritable stages of his withdrawal, was starting to get on his nerves.

No wonder Roger had acted up so much. Who liked being pitied all the time? Who liked those looks full of passionate sympathy and that subtle understanding that he was still unable to feel through his numbing shock? His roommate hadn't had exactly the right idea, lashing out at everyone and anyone around him, but it was certainly what Mark felt like doing right then.

The only good thing about this noon luncheon with Mimi was the fact that Jason hadn't tagged along. It was still odd seeing the Latino with his friend, nuzzling and cooing in that sickeningly sweet new-couple fashion. Budding romance was, at the moment, something that Mark couldn't quite stomach.

"Yeah?" he murmured. His voice sounded slightly dull and he knew it- the problem was that he didn't care. He was still stuck on the epiphany that he'd had the day before. Mimi didn't know anything about that, but she seemed to make her own assumptions and instead of bothering him she just gave him another of those painfully understanding looks. The two of them were silent for a moment and the Latina twirled her fork in her pasta, biting her lip and watching Mark think.

Internally conflicted, Mark's head lowered and his eyes fell shut wearily. Roger weighed on his mind like a plague he'd never be rid of. Logically, he should have been pissed. Fuming. ANGRY. But it took so much to make Mark angry- and right now the best he could muster was sad.

Love Roger? It made sense, at least. He couldn't imagine ever working up the courage to say it out loud, even if he ever saw Roger again- hell, maybe this was best. They weren't going anywhere. Roger might be bi and all, but he was Mark Cohen. He wasn't exactly the catch of the day. Awkward, stuttering, small and attached to his camera. Yeah. How attractive. If Roger had stuck around he might never have realized it, but even so it would have hurt. To see him with Cherry, to see him with ANY other girl- or guy, if he ever dated one- would have broken Mark's heart.

Roger had already done that pretty thoroughly by leaving, but at least the awful anticipation was gone. Mark liked to look at it like this: at least now the crack in his heart went all the way through instead of lingering painfully on the surface.

He should pay more attention to Mimi. His job was to make sure that his friends were happy, but he couldn't even do that lately. All they did was worry over him. Worrying is stressing and stress causes all kinds of illnesses and Mark ought not to be giving his friends any more illnesses than they already have.

Speaking of which…

"Hey- Meems, I've got to run… AZT." Smiling in a way that didn't really reach his eyes, Mark stood, secretly grateful that he wouldn't have to sit through the rest of their stinted conversation. Mimi watched helplessly with big brown eyes as he left, shoulders slumping.

There really was nothing any of them could do for him now.

MRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMRMR

"You've got to be fucking kidding me." Roger cursed under his breath as he rummaged in his pocket, fingering the hole he'd found in the bottom. So much for the tape he'd bought earlier that day… What a waste of money. He glanced up again at the solid metal door of the loft in dismay, wishing there was at least a crack between the bottom of it and the floor that he could slip the letter into.

"Alright…" he muttered to himself, slipping off his shoe and reaching inside for the key he'd been carrying all this time. He'd hoped that it wouldn't come to this. Returning to the city was risky enough- returning to the loft? He might end up moving back in. That was, if Mark would have him… But no! He couldn't start thinking like that. Coming back NOW was out of the question. He turned the key in the lock and bit his lip at the familiar grinding click, giving it a mighty shove and watching as it swung inwards.

It was exactly as he'd left it. Roger felt himself tear up a little at the overwhelming homesickness, swallowing a lump in his throat. This was home… Not a stupid hotel in Boston. Not the stupid hotel in New York he'd checked into this morning. No. THIS. Avenue B was his home. THIS apartment was his home. Damn Mark for being so innocent, for being so lovable, for being so god damn negative and for letting Roger fuck him up.

Coming back wasn't an option, but Roger always wanted what he knew he couldn't have.

He took a wooden step forward and turned his head slowly, breathing in the scent that was so distinctly Mark. Mint and tea and aftershave. Mimi's perfume lingered in the air as well, and he stifled the red jealousy welling up from the yawning abyss in his heart. He wanted Mark to be happy, taken care of, but he couldn't help wishing that it was him.

The loft was slightly tidier than it had been two months ago without Roger to mess it all up every time Mark made some attempt at cleaning. It was also rather cold, but that was only to be expected in mid-January. In fact, it almost seemed nice compared to what it usually was- Roger looked upwards and sure enough, the hole in the roof had been patched up. He smiled sadly and continued inside, letting the door fall shut behind him.

Maybe… Maybe he could stay a little longer. Maybe take some of his other clothes with him and… Just sit around. Remember how it used to be. The temptation was too strong to overcome. Roger flopped down onto the couch without much ceremony, making a content grunt at the uncomfortable duct-tape surface of the rickety piece of furniture. Oh, yeah. He was home. The majority of him was rejoicing, every nerve alive with excited electricity. Only one small part of him, buried beneath the layers of weakness, protested.

And what about Mark? He'll know you've been here. He'll look for you. Why give him hope like that?

Roger frowned and mentally swatted that part of him away, pushing down his growing misgivings as he held the receipt-letter in his hands, crinkling it over and over in his anxiety. Mark would be fine. For all he knew, the filmmaker had already gone out looking for him. It sounded like a very Markish thing to do, after all.

What about his test results?

What if he's positive?

Blanching at the thought, Roger stood abruptly and dusted himself off, movements jerky. He was an idiot. He had to leave, fast- before Mark came home and shattered his perfect illusion.

Roger wanted to believe he'd kept his friend safe. But what if he'd failed even in that simple endeavor? What excuse did he have then?

Making up his mind, Roger regretfully crumpled the note in his hand, pacing towards the door.

A key turned in the lock.

And then he heard his voice.

MRMRMRMRMRMMRMRMRMRMR

"What the-" Mark frowned uneasily, twisting the key again. He was certain he'd locked the door before he left- he'd never failed to do so before- and yet here it was, unlocked. The loft had been left defenseless all morning. Dreading what he might find when he opened the door, the filmmaker took a deep breath and pushed it inwards.

Nothing had changed. It was all as he'd left it. He breathed a loud sigh of relief, letting his shoulders slump and a small smile find its way onto his face. He should have known. What did one bohemian kid without a job have that was valuable enough to steal? Snorting at his own foolish suspicions, he stepped inside and closed the door behind him, locking it decisively. Spinning around, he made for the kitchen-

And ran smack into Roger Davis.

"OOF." Bouncing off of his former roommate's chest, Mark's back hit the door. There was a frozen moment of slow recognition, of choked noises and heavy breathing and flared nostrils, and the two stared warily at each other in much the same way that they had that day in the hall two months ago, just before Roger had left.

After a long moment, Roger raised one hand in a feeble wave. "Hey." His voice cracked and he grimaced, looking down and clearing his throat.

Mark? He couldn't say anything at all. He couldn't find the words. Months of dreadful anticipation, of mornings waking up and discovering that no, it hadn't just been a nightmare, that Roger was really gone… Months to grieve the loss of his best friend and to worry worry worry over what he might have done wrong, to regret every little decision he'd made, every imperfection in his actions and his speech and even his appearance, even his tolerance, even that one amazing night that he hadn't ever thought he'd regret, not in a million years…

Standing before him was the object of his every dream and he couldn't even talk.

Clearly uncomfortable with the silence, Roger squirmed and chewed on his lip, backing away just slightly. "Um- Mark look-"

That was what broke him. Lunging forward in a surge of anger he hadn't even known he'd possessed, Mark slammed his curled fist into Roger's sternum, knocking the breath right out of him and sending him reeling backwards.

"Y-you ASSHOLE." His own words startled him, but he managed to keep his hands from flying to his mouth. Instead, he held his ground, staring fumingly at the wheezing guitarist before him. Disregard the stutter- Mark Cohen was standing up for himself. And against his best friend to boot.

Stepping forward, driving Roger a step back, he poked him less-than-gently in the chest with a bony index finger and bared his teeth. "I can't believe you- I can't believe you have the BALLS to come back right now, Davis. Why the fuck are you here?"

Why didn't you get here sooner?

Why did you leave?

Why?

The unspoken questions rang in the echo of his angry words, but there was no way he could swallow them back now. Roger was dumbstruck. Still catching his breath, eyes wide at the shock that his geeky little friend had actually hit him, he stared at Mark and practically drank in his presence.

Mark Mark Mark…

Caution flying right out of his mind he found himself moving closer, and now Mark was back against the wall again. It was like a tug of war with their willpower, their motives- Roger had no idea what he was doing until their lips were pressed gently together, still staring into each other's eyes. When his hands had come up to cup Mark's face he had no idea, but there they were, feeling the fine stubble on his chin and the baby smooth skin beneath.

Mark.

Here was Mark. And here was Roger. MarkandRoger. Two inseparable men finally reunited by some random twist of fate, or perhaps Roger's faulty willpower.

But for Mark, that was the last straw.

All of a sudden, Roger found himself being pushed back with the force of a bull, knocked right onto his ass on the floor. Over him, Mark wiped his mouth furiously on his sleeve, secretly savoring that single sweet moment before he remembered how angry he was, and how confused. "Y-y-you can't- you can't just do that!" Somehow, it was much less amusing than heartbreaking to hear Mark's voice crack now like a pre-pubescent male. "You can't- No! I can't just let you do that! You're not allowed to leave and come back just when I'm starting to give up hope you never will!"

Dead silence. The cleaner-than-usual loft seemed to hold it's breath- even the traffic outside was irrelevant. Roger, braced on his elbows on the wooden floor, had nothing to say to that so Mark just kept talking. His hands flew about in a desperate attempt to convey his meaning, making a million gestures without real translations. Pure emotion seemed to pour off of him, and Roger finally understood the meaning of getting something off one's chest.

"I- I don't- I can't- ROGER!" Wincing at the sound of his name, Roger recoiled but kept his eyes trained on his bespectacled friend, who was only becoming more coherent by the minute. "Asshole. You're just- Mimi's right, I can't just let you come back- Why do you think it's okay, Roger? What made you think that it was okay to just waltz back into my life like everything is fucking NORMAL? What gives you the right to act like that?" He paused for breath, and then nearly sobbed, "It's not normal! Everything's changed!"

"Mark…" he heard himself begin slowly, and he was mildly curious as to what exactly he could say. He sure as hell didn't have a clue, but Roger's mouth liked to run without him. "Mark, look- please." Slowly, he sat up into a kneeling position and then heaved himself to his feet, ignoring the ache beginning in his chest where Mark had punched him. "I didn't want to-"

Beep. Beep. Beep.

"AZT break." Mark muttered under his breath. His blue eyes wouldn't meet Roger's horrified greens, cast downward as he marched to the kitchen and uncapped the bottle that had been sitting there for the past day. The faucet was turned on and shut off, half a glass of water and a tiny pill swigged, and he finally, guardedly, raised his eyes to observe his friend's reaction.

Roger looked devastated.

All of that work, all of that miserable time, and for what? To make both of them hurt? To deny them both what they wanted? Roger knew he could be a bit of a masochist but this really took the cake. Bottom having dropped out of his stomach, it was his turn to stutter.

"I- I-"

"And you know," Mark interrupted calmly, anger having drained out of him through the soles of his feet. "I'm not even mad. No-" he warned as Roger opened his mouth to protest. "No. I'm not even mad at you for that." There was a pregnant pause. "… You know what I am mad about?"

"What?" Roger asked, dreading the answer. His voice was low, gravelly, and he was watching Mark with guilt and horror. The filmmaker gave him a wry half-smile.

"I'm not mad because you infected me. I'm mad-" Here he stepped forward, striding towards Roger who seemed rooted to the spot, trembling minutely. "because you didn't call."

Somehow they were kissing again, and Roger didn't really care why anymore. Mark's addictive touch sent fire racing through his veins, and he greedily pressed closer, hands firmly placed on Mark's waist, Mark's hands in his hair, tugging urgently. Tongues slipped past chapped lips and teeth clacked. It was messy and desperate and neither of them could figure out where all of this emotion was coming from. Maybe it was just being generated in the negative space between their bodies…

Mark broke away panting, licking his lips and feeling his heart race furiously. He tried his best not to think about the irreparable damage he was doing to their friendship. Roger beat him to the punch.

"I love you."

"I think I love you."

Almost at the same time, their eyes snapped to each other's and they stared for a long moment. Their heartbeats seemed to sync themselves. Then-

The magnetic force returned.

That tangled embrace.

A pair of bohemians stumbling back down the hall, small whimpers and groans and other desperate noises, a red flush rising on their respective skins.

Two months ago this all ended in disaster.

But now? Now it was fucked-up-perfect.