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Im/Ex Plosion

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Mark had always been the quiet one. Roger was the one who would yell, and throw things, though never, ever, even on the days when the needle seemed permanently attached to his arm, did he so much as dent the Fender, a fact he’d clung to tightly during the sweat-soaked shakes of withdrawal, proof that he wasn’t totally gone, that the heroin hadn’t made the music, and couldn’t take it away.

Mark could get angry, of course, he was only human—especially, thought Roger, when oh-so-human emotions flew rapidly across his face without hiding—but the anger stayed buttoned-up, tucked behind the twist of his scarf, threaded into the eternal tension in his shoulders. Roger acted out, Mark acted sane. It’d always been that way, so Roger was more than a little surprised when Mark threw his coffee cup onto the loft floor with a multi-tone shattering.

“Fuck. How dare he, calling up like it was just a cheery holiday greeting, how’ve you been boys, chestnuts roasting, oh and pay up. Rent’s due, a fuckin’ year’s worth and how the hell could we get the cash, we’re broke, he wouldn’t have had half that amount without damn Muffy, shit-”

Roger, watching Mark pace in a tight angry circle from window to wall and back, thought of reminding his roommate that Benny’s wife was named Allison (it had been Collins who’d started calling her Muffy, which had sent both Mark and Roger into quickly smothered laughter at the look on Benny’s face) but then Mark started talking again.

“Benny’s a shit.” Roger felt his mouth want to drop open: Mark was the quiet one, the polite one, who tried to make things work between people, not swearing and stomping around the loft like he wanted to break more coffee cups. “He’s horrible, a fake and... crap.” Mark stopped then for the first time since he’d hung up the phone, and looked at Roger, as if wanting an answer to some unspoken question.

“Mark, face it, he’s always been that way, even before.” Roger felt his fingers bunch into a fist, nails stinging his palm. Which before? He wasn’t sure. Before Benny moved out and married rich, before Roger’d quit doing smack, before Maureen left Mark and Collins moving out, and April and a blood-stained apology? Which one? None of them. All of them. Benny had always been so very much himself; probably even before Roger met Mark.

For a moment, Roger couldn’t remember a time before Mark, before the piles of rejected scripts and half-edited rolls of film cluttered the loft. After rehab, Roger had loved that clutter, loved the feeling of permanence and tangibility given by all of their things, their broken-down, half-mended shit, his, Mark’s, theirs.

“No!” Mark burst out again, turning back to stalking around the room, his hands pulled into fists by his sides. He glanced at Roger, then towards the phone that still held a ghost of Benny’s voice.


Rent, my amigos, is due, or I will have to evict you.

“It’s just… not fair, Roger.” The defeat in Mark’s voice made Roger want to throw something.

“We’ll work it out, Mark. We always do.” In his head, Roger was already adding and tallying the things they could hock, something, anything to get Benny off their backs, to get Mark back to being Mark. The quiet one.

Because Roger was the one who would yell, and throw things, he had a grip on Mark’s wrist before he could pick up the phone and fling it onto the floor. He’d seen it coming.

Mark twisted his hand, trying to get free.

“Let me go, Rog. Let me the fuck go.”

A chill walked up Roger’s spine. How many times had he felt those words in his own mouth, tasted the thick anger in the vowels as he flung them in Mark’s face. Mark was always the first one he hurt; it was only fair to be there when the tables turned.

“No, Mark.” I can’t. “I won’t.”

Mark seemed to deflate a little, though Roger could still feel the muscles flexed hard in his grip.

“It’s just, he was our friend, and he lied to us. Friends aren’t supposed to lie to you, it’s, it’s the worst thing they can do to you, and it’s…”

“So what do you want to do, Mark?” Roger felt his hand start to curl into a fist and let go of Mark rapidly, wondering if he now had another bruise to add to his collection. While they both had the passion for losing their temper, Mark was the quiet one, so he was the one who ended up getting hurt. “I mean, fuck, breaking all of our shit isn’t going to solve the problem. Benny can evict us with stuff, or without it.” Roger had a mental image of the pair of them standing on the corner of 11th and B, with a box full of paper scraps and splinters, Benny slamming the door after them.

Benny probably would get a kick out leaving his two friends out in the cold with a box of trash. Laugh his traitorous ass off.

“I don’t know.” Mark shrugged his shoulders, one hand going to touch the arm that Roger had been grasping. Dammit, wouldn't he ever know his own strength?

Roger opened his mouth to apologize, but saw Mark was looking straight at him, smiling a bit. He knew the apology was coming and he didn’t need to hear it. Because Roger was the one who yelled, and threw things. And Mark was the one who cleaned it up.

They should probably get the coffee cup off the floor before someone (probably Mark, he had that kind of luck) stepped on it and got ceramic or whatever the hell they made mugs out of in their foot. Roger bent down to start picking up the pieces, not that he was much for cleaning, but it was something to do, so that he could stop looking at how horribly alone and young Mark’s eyes seemed. He started talking, just to be saying something, doing something besides counting down the minutes, seconds, moments until Benny arrived.

“I could see how much money the band has and maybe buy us some time.” As if the band wasn’t pissed enough that Roger had bailed through the months of withdrawal, as if they weren’t all starving and poor and mostly assholes anyways. “Or maybe Collins will come up with something, crazy schemes but they usually work, like a protest or a fight so that we won’t pay until Benny gets his head out of his ass and starts acting like a normal person, like—” Roger stood up to meet Mark’s eyes, his hands full of broken coffee cup, but the last part of his sentence (the friend he used to be) died at the look on Mark’s face.

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?” Roger asked, but Mark was already nodding his head and smiling, even laughing a little.

“We won’t pay. We’ll refuse to pay.”

“Come on, Mark, be serious.” Roger said, wincing a little as a piece of cup nicked his thumb.

“No, really, I am serious. It’s like you said: crazy, but it usually works. We just won’t pay last year’s rent. Rog, it’ll be fantastic. Just think of the possibilities,” Mark gestured towards his camera on the floor.

“Mark...”

“Roger...” Mark whined back, teasingly. He still looked young, Roger knew, but now there was enthusiasm and laughter in his eyes, an energy that had nothing to do with anger or Benny and everything to do with being now, here, with Roger. Roger tried to sigh but it turned into a growing smile.

“We won’t pay the rent.” He tried the words out, imagining the look on Benny’s face, Collins’ delight when they told him. Hell, even Maureen would laugh; she hated Benny worse than they did. “Mark?”

Mark stood in front of Roger, an eyebrow raised. They were close enough that Roger could feel Mark’s breath on his face, coffee and excitement.

“Yeah?”

Roger started to speak, and Mark joined him, because while they were different (quiet and loud, crazy and sane) they could both see it coming.

“We’re not...”

“...gonna pay... last year’s rent!”