“It’s been a year.”
Beck’s voice is soft in the late-night dark, so quiet Mark only calls his attention to it when he feels Beck’s breath against his forehead, ruffling his hair.
“A year of what?” he asks, trying to drag himself away from the sleep that tugs at him, enticing.
“A year since we’ve been home.”
Mark’s eyes snap open. “Fuck,” he breathes. He hadn’t even realised in his sleep-addled state, but when he turns his head the clocks neon green display blinks 0:01. The crew of Ares 3 have officially been home for one whole year.
“Fuck,” he says again, softly. Beck presses a kiss against his hairline, rests his forehead against Marks. “I didn’t even notice, I was--”
“Busy,” Beck supplies.
“Busy,” Mark agrees.
So busy now, all the time, which is… weird. It’s not the same kind of ‘busy’ he’d been on mars, when he was going from place to place in the Hab and on the rover just trying to make it from one day to the next. Ironically, ‘busy’ on mars meant waiting, learning patience. ‘Busy’ meant time lags between communications and watching, slowly as his potatoes grew, or ignoring the raw, gnawing fear every second by blasting disco music or watching Johansson's Days of our Lives.
Busy on earth is a whole different ball game. It’s so constant, so all the time without stop. It’s like seeing the sun for the first time, and being dunked into cold ice. It’s not enough and yet too much all at once.
“I’m still the same,” Mark says quietly.
Beck presses a kiss to the jut of his neck. He hesitates, Mark feels him, but doesn’t act on it. Usually, in daylight, one of them might make a joke of it, but not now. Beck knows him too well, knows him in all his multitudes. If Mark dwells on that for too long, his heart might break and bend under the weight of that.
“I mean, I knew I’d be the same, but…” he trails off. When he’d saw envisioned himself at home after a year, it wasn’t that he expected to be a whole other person, but.
But he hadn’t expected he’d still be so paralysed with fear when storms hit, or that his stomach would churn every time he saw a potato, part in missing and part in revulsion. That he would still be so tired, bone-tired, even after nearly ten months of staying in bed while on the Hermes returning. When he saw himself home after a year, he saw himself as a new entity, one completely removed from mars. But here he was, living with it still.
Beck looks at him, cups his cheek in his hand and presses a gentle kiss to his lips. That, though. That he hadn’t banked on. Not in his wildest dreams would he have imagined getting to wake up beside Beck every morning, getting sour morning kisses and sweet ones goodnight. He’d never thought he’d be the reason for Beck’s fond eye roll, soft smile when he shook his head and told him ‘yeah, i’m a sure thing, Mark Watney.’
Mark runs a thumb along the ridge of Beck’s cheekbone. If mars was the price he had to pay for getting hold Beck all the nights of the rest of his life, Mark can’t say that it wasn’t something he was willing to pay-- he would pay it again, twenty times more, in a heartbeat.
Much as he’s felt busy, he’s also felt like he was filled with a low key, unbridled joy. It’s brought on partially by earth-- by the people and parks and his students and all the food that exists outside of potatoes. But it’s also brought on by the way his and Beck’s hands has brushed when they each went to pay the bill that first time they went out for dinner, the way Beck laughed so happily and carefree when Mark told him every embarrassing story he had from college, and the way Beck even indulged him in stories of his own, of when he first got his dog when he was six years old and named it Sputnik. There’d been a sense of familiarity that came with it, amidst the foreignness of it, so maybe he just couldn’t remember it- Mars had taken so much from him and his joy and happiness and for so long so maybe he just needed to get reacquainted with it.
“Thanks for sticking with me,” he tells Beck. All the breakdowns and temper tantrums and horrible recovery moments. And Beck had been there with him the whole time, weathered each one, even when Mark himself wanted nothing more than to throw in the towel.
Beck gets this pained look on his face he always does when Mark says things like this. “Anything, Mark,” he says, soft. “I’d be with you through anything.”
Normally, in the daylight, Mark would make some quip about cheating on Beck with Lewis or the like, and Beck would snort and reply “as if she’d stoop that low, bud” but now--
Now, it’s night, and it’s dark, and it’s just the two of them in their one year old house; so Mark will let his guard down and be sincere. “I love you.” It’s not something they say often, often reserved for private moments like this that are unpolluted and theirs alone. So Mark tells him this, because Beck should know it, and because he means it and because sometimes that fact is the only thing that gets him through a day.
“I love you, too,” Beck replies, filled with his own weighty emotion.
So that’s where he is, one year on from mars; curled in bed with Beck, arms around each other and lips ghosting each other, foreheads resting against the other.
It was worth it, Mark thinks. It was all, impossibly, worth it for you. For this.
He won’t tell Beck that now, though. That’s something that deserves to see the light of day.