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After All There’s Only One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas

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We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate, Roger…

“Mark, this is silly,” said Roger, from his loose sprawl on the couch, a position that was as close to comfortable as three loose springs and duct-taped cushions got.

“What, that I’m more interested in putting crappy Christmas lights around the window than lighting the menorah my parents sent?”

“No.” Roger paused, shooting a glance at the still-boxed menorah. “Well, yes. But what’s even sillier is that you didn’t get interested in this until the day before Christmas.”

“At least it’s not the day after Christmas.” Mark clutched several strands of multicolored lights that he’d spent the past two hours untangling. Roger hadn’t helped, unless you count not laughing too loudly whenever Mark got caught in a bad tangle as helping.

“…that’d be even sillier.”

“Totally my point,” Mark said, looking between the loft’s high window and the lights in his hands as if judging the distance.

“But… never mind.” Roger shook his head as Mark stepped onto the window sill, placing his other foot on a convenient chair. Both creaked a bit as he found his balance.

“Mark, come down from there.”

“No way! Come on, Rog, we don’t have any Christmas decorations.”

“That’s because we don’t have any money.” Roger reminded him. He smiled at the sulky look on Mark’s face. “Where’d you get those, anyway?”

“Present from Maureen a couple months ago.” Mark shrugged as if he could see the look on Roger’s face. “Christmas lights in August—I didn’t ask.”

“Don’t blame you.” The spring digging into Roger’s shoulder finally forced him to sit up. He watched Mark wrestle with a knot in the wires, torn between amusement and worry at how unstable he looked up there.

“Mark, stop being suicidal; we don’t even have anything to put those damn lights up with.”

Mark looked back at Roger, grinning.

“I stole masking tape from Maureen—well, I guess from Joanne, technically, it’s her apartment..” He shifted the lights onto one arm and shoved a hand into his jacket pocket. “I like to think of it as ‘stealing-my-now-ex-girlfriend’ tax.”

As Mark moved, the old plywood that formed the window sill started to shift and made a drawn-out squeaking noise. Roger stood up and walked closer to Mark and the window.

“Dammit, Mark, get down before you kill yourself.”

Mark spared his roommate an amused glance.

“Calm down, Roger, I’m—” at the word ‘fine’, the sill cracked in half and Mark, in a desperate pinwheel for balance, rested his weight on the arm of the chair.

Roger saw, as if in slow-motion, the old chair (why’d he let Mark get up there, that chair was a half-broken piece of shit) tilt and Mark twist backwards, falling rather prominent spine first towards the loft floor. The rather unyielding cement loft floor. Oh shit was all that Roger had time to think before he stretched his arms out and forwards. Then the heavy shock of Mark’s spine colliding with his collarbone, Mark’s sneaker-clad heels slamming into one of Roger’s shins, the muffled thud of both boys hitting the floor.

There was an anticlimactic moment of silence, then a groan as Roger pushed himself onto an elbow. He could already feel the threads of strain in his arm as he’d tried to cushion Mark’s fall.

“Christ, remind me to never call you too skinny again. Did anyone ever tell you that you weigh a fucking ton, Cohen?”

“Fuck you, Davis, I think I died over here.”

Roger was about to snap a comment back but then saw how rigid Mark held himself.

“Where does it hurt?” he asked quietly.

“Why, you want to kiss it better?”

Roger smiled at the sarcasm in Mark’s voice.

“Okay.”

“What?”

Roger shook his head a little, wishing he could see Mark’s face; wishing he could see more than Mark falling, falling, and Roger not there to catch him.

“Where does it hurt?” he said again.

Roger could hear Mark swallow. Should he take it back? Was it too much? Then, “My shoulder, a bit.”

Dammit, fucking years I’ve lived with Mark and I can read him like a fucking book until now. Nice timing, Davis.

Roger carefully brushed his lips against Mark’s nearest shoulder, a brief taste of cotton and dirt and the faintest hint of tea and wool. His scarf, he thought, and felt a twist of arousal unravel in his belly.

“Anywhere else?” Roger asked, his voice hoarse at the feeling of Mark next to him, bruised but not broken. Alive.

“Back of my neck.” There wasn’t any hesitation in Mark’s voice now, but he breathed in funny as Roger kissed the pale skin between Mark’s shirt collar and the wispy blond edge of his hair. “My chin,” Mark not-quite-whispered.

Roger leaned over and Mark twisted onto his back so that the almost-chaste kiss caught the corner of his mouth. He reached for the back of Roger’s neck to hold him still and now it was Mark kissing, carefully and decisively sliding his tongue into Roger’s mouth, feeling the slight rasp of stubble against his cheek as he traced the line of Roger’s teeth. Roger made a noise and pulled him closer and Mark adjusted his grip, hissing as the newly bruised muscles in his back complained.

Roger lifted his head to meet Mark’s eyes.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Mark falling, twisting out of balance…

Mark gripped Roger’s shoulder hard enough that Roger felt the pressure slide down his spine.

“Yes.” He looked at Roger’s face for a minute. “Yes, I’m okay.” His hand drifted back to Roger’s neck and ran beneath the collar of his shirt with careful fingers. “Thank you. For being there.”

“Any time,” Roger whispered, shivering at the catch of calloused fingertips on his skin. “Perhaps…more… c’n kiss better… in bedroom?”

“That wasn’t exactly a sentence, Rog” Mark would have said, but Roger had started kissing him again, so he didn’t make any sense either.

On Christmas Day, Roger found a board in the empty lot to replace the cracked window sill. He and Mark decided to hang the Christmas lights in their room instead.