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Desert Highways

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The first time Creegan kissed Mark was after he almost died. He wasn't expecting Creegan to come around to check up on him, but he showed up at the hospital and then he showed up to take Mark home, and after that he just kind of stopped leaving. Mark figured at the time that it had something to do with Creegan's own experience with death. Like maybe, in some fucked up, totally Creegan way, he just wanted to be around it again.

Whatever the reason, Creegan wouldn't leave even when Mark told him to, so eventually he just gave up trying to annoy Creegan back out of his life. The truth was that it was kind of nice having someone around, even if he didn't deserve it. At first it was nice having Creegan fussing over him, making sure he was taking his pain pills and moving around enough to keep from getting stiff. Once he started feeling a little better, it was nice having Creegan around to argue with, to fill him in on the cases he was missing and to get him the remote and refuse to get him beers.

It was comfortable, like they were friends all of a sudden. Like none of their stupid pissing contests had ever happened, or else Creegan had forgotten about them. Mark wouldn't have been surprised if he did. So it was weird being friends with Creegan, of all people, but Mark wasn't complaining. Nobody else ever came to see him, anyway, and after awhile it started to feel almost normal, having Creegan around.

Then came the day that he asked for the remote and Creegan carried it over, then murmured something about going into the office for awhile, kissed Mark on the forehead, and disappeared. Just like that, like he kissed Mark goodbye all the time. Like kissing his friend – his guy friend, and last time he checked Creegan used to be straight – on the fucking forehead and then just taking off was normal.

Maybe in Creegan's mind it was. It was hard to tell with him.

Mark told himself that he was going to ask what the fuck Creegan thought he was doing as soon as he got back. He wasn't going to let it slide, because Creegan was weird, yeah, and he was willing to put up with a lot, but he wasn't going to put up with that. Creegan couldn't get away with fucking with his head just because his defenses were still down.

Only Creegan didn't come back until after Mark fell asleep, and when he woke up again he was in bed, and Creegan was sitting next to him. Just leaning back against the headboard and flipping through a file like they did this every night. Like Creegan belonged there, and for a second Mark found himself wishing it were true.

As soon as he realized what he was thinking he shook it off, levered himself into a sitting position and winced at the stiffness in his back. It only took a second for Creegan's hands to land on him, concern written all over his stupid, meddling face, saying useless things like take it slow and are you okay?

Like he was ever going to be okay again.

"I'm fine," was all he said, shaking Creegan's hands off somehow and willing his legs to work long enough to get him to the bathroom. Because he could walk; the doctor said he was supposed to practice, after all, and it only hurt after he'd been asleep for awhile. Once his muscles stretched out he'd be fine. He might even stop asking Creegan to hand him the remote. Maybe that way Creegan would finally take the hint and go home.

Only Mark wasn't even sure Creegan still had a home, because he'd been living in that ratty motel room, and there was no telling whether he was still paying for that place when he'd been staying with Mark for weeks now. Most of the time Mark didn't wake up to find Creegan in his bed; he was pretty sure Creegan had been sleeping on his couch, but he wasn't positive. He'd lost complete control of his life at some point in the past two months, and he wasn't even sure how it had happened. The truth was, he hadn't even minded until Creegan went and ruined everything by kissing him.

It wasn't like he'd never wondered what it would feel like, having all that intense focus directed at him. Because Creegan was crazy, sure, but somehow he made it sexy, and Mark would have to be dead not to notice. He'd noticed a long time ago, before he ever thought there was a chance they might be friends. At the time he'd dealt with it by pushing Creegan's buttons, and when that stopped working…well, he hadn't found a fix for that particular problem yet.

And now Creegan was just there, all the time, and Mark still couldn't turn off the way he felt. They were colleagues and they were friends, but Mark wanted more than that, wanted that stupid, meaningless kiss to mean something. He wanted Creegan to lie awake at night and think about him, but that wasn't the way Creegan worked, and the sooner Mark accepted that, the happier he'd be.

Creegan probably laid awake nights thinking about quantum physics or the light you see when you die or exactly what it would take to get away with murder. He thought about stuff normal people didn't, never worried about bills or trash day or whether or not there was milk in the fridge. He'd probably done his wife a favor when he left, and now…now Mark was stuck with him.

When he came out of the bathroom again Creegan was still sitting on the bed, arms folded behind his head and just watching, like he was waiting for Mark to fall so Creegan could pick him back up again. It was annoying and Mark wanted to resent him for it – did resent him – but he needed Creegan too, and not just because he still couldn't get in the shower by himself.

He didn't want to need Creegan, though, so instead of heading back to the safety of the bed, he shuffled toward the living room. He was halfway there when his body cramped up, and he gasped against the pain and clutched uselessly at the wall next to him. Sure enough, before he could fall there was Creegan, arms sliding around his waist to pull him back up, then dragging Mark's arm around strong shoulders to help him to the couch.

It was humiliating, because he wanted to be better. He wanted to be ready to go back to work, to drown himself in other people's sorrows so he wouldn't have to focus on his own. He wanted his life back, for whatever that was worth, and most of all, he wanted to be free of Creegan. Only that wasn't going to happen as long as he was still falling apart at the seams, so Rivers did the only thing he could think of to get rid of him for once and for all: he kissed Creegan right on the mouth.

Creegan didn't kiss him back. He just stood there, arm still hooked around Mark's waist, holding him up and letting him push his fingers through Creegan's hair. And any second now he was going to pull away, to tell Mark that he'd misunderstood, that they had to put some distance between them so Mark wouldn't get hurt. Only he just stood there, even when Mark finally pulled back to look at him, and when he saw Creegan's expression his stomach twisted into a tight knot.

"The doctor said you need to take it slow," Creegan said, fingers splayed against Mark's back and he could feel the heat of them even through his shirt. "No strenuous activity, at least until your stitches come out."

His voice was soft, like he was talking to himself more than Mark. Like he'd actually thought about this, about when it would be okay for Creegan to do more than kiss him on the forehead.

"I can wait," Mark heard himself say. And maybe almost dying really did make you crazy, because a second ago he'd been trying to scare Creegan back out of his life, and now he was practically begging him to stay.

"Good," Creegan said. He hooked an arm around Mark again and helped him to the couch, depositing him as gently as possible and going in search of the remote. When he found it he handed it over, and this time he pressed a kiss to the corner of Mark’s mouth. Whether he’d been aiming for Mark’s lips or not, Mark couldn’t tell, but before he could turn into the kiss it was over.

"Good. Do you want some food? I'll make food."

He was gone before Mark could answer, banging around in the kitchen until Mark had to turn up the volume on the TV just to hear the news. And somehow he'd managed to wedge Creegan even further into his life, but for once, Mark didn't mind. In fact, he was hoping Creegan would hang around for a while.