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We're Still Here

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"Jack, listen to me," Mark started. He had just dropped the most painful piece of information upon Jack and just thinking about it made him sick.
"What the fuck is going on?" Jack asked. He felt tears press his eyes, but he wasn't going to cry over this, because maybe it was a joke. A sick joke, but a joke nonetheless.
"Is this a joke- are you fucking kidding with me right now?"
"Jack, Jack, please just listen, alright?" Mark said. "I know how you feel, okay? And I never lied to you, alright? I just-" He stopped for a second before continuing
"I can't do this anymore, okay." He said. "The thought of being pointed out is just- it's too much."

"What the-" Jack started to object again but Mark interrupted.
"No, no, Jack, it'll be easier this way. I promise, okay, I promise."
"Wha- What do you mean easy?" Jack yelled. "What- what about what you said before?! What about fuck everyone else, right? We are who we are, right?
"Jack-"
"So- so then what the fuck- what fucking changed? What did I do wrong? I-"
"Jack! It will just be easier this way-"
Jack stopped Mark mid-objection by kissing him harshly. Mark tried to shove Jack away, but he was persistent with holding the kiss. Mark eventually got him off and Jack began to cry.

"Goddamn you!" He shoved Mark into the fence and Mark winced. "Were you just fucking with me the whole time then? Did you even care?"
"Of course I fucking cared! I told you I never lied."
"Then- then what the fuck is this? Why the fuck are you doing this?" Jack was hurt. He didn't understand how Mark could just leave him like this after promising it wasn't important what people thought. Mark never cared about what people said or thought- fuck half the town thought he was a goddamn satanist!

"I'm scared." Mark finally said. Jack wiped at his face and held himself tight.
"I'm fucking scared too!" Jack screamed. "I'm fucking terrified, I always have been! But that doesn't mean I'm gonna just- just run off with some girl because I'm scared of what people will say!"
Mark looked down at the gravel and sighed.
"I'd rather be alone than watch you fuck around with girls and then kiss me in private." Jack said. "I don't care if you want me to be your secret, but not if you're with someone just because it's convenient for you."
"It's not convenient." Mark said.
"Then how is this easier for you?" Jack said. Mark had no retaliation and just put his face in his hands.

"I can't-" Jack started. "I don't know what to do."
Silence filled the air and then Jack spoke again.
"Do you even like me?" he asked. "Do you genuinely like me at all?"
Mark didn't respond. He didn't even look up from his hands. Jack sighed and picked up his skateboard.
"I'm going," he said. "I need to just- think right now, and I think you do too."
He walked away without another word between them.

Jack and Mark didn't talk for a week after their conversation at the skate park. That is until Mark showed up at his door, hands in his pockets and looking down at his shoes. His eyes met Jacks and Jack already felt nervous.
"Hey," Mark said.
"Hi."
Mark held up a joint and showed a half smile. "Wanna go to the attic?"
Jack nodded and Mark shut the door behind him, following Jack up to the attic. They both sat in their respective places and Mark lit the joint, taking a long drag. They stayed silent, passing the joint back and forth until there was no more of it. Mark leaned back and turned his head to face Jack.
"Sometimes," he began. "Sometimes I wish you were a girl."
Jack looked back at him.
"Why is that?"
Mark repositioned himself but didn't take his eyes off of Jack.

"I think about how different things would be, and how many things I could do- how many things we could do."
"Like what?" Jack asked. Mark grinned and looked down.
"I dunno, maybe people wouldn't glare at us when we hung out." He chuckled a little and that made Jack smile.
"And maybe I could kiss you, like, in public."
"You want to kiss me?"
Mark was quiet for a moment, but then he continued.

"I think I do, but I'm- I'm still scared."
"We shouldn't have to be scared, y'know." Jack said. "Just, fuck everyone else, right?"
Mark looked away and sighed.
"I wish it was that easy, Jack." He said. "It's easy to say 'fuck everyone', but it's not easy to just do."
"It's hard to be stared at and harassed just for being with someone. I can't make myself ignore it because it makes me feel alienated."

"I thought you didn't care about what other people thought." Jack said.
"I do," Mark said. He now looked at the crumbling and cracked ceiling. "I'm painfully aware of how everyone views me, and sometimes I can accept that and internalize it, but this is different. This is something I can't just internalize and wait for it to go away. People are always going to hate me- hate us for just being.." Mark trails off.
"Queers?" Jack said.
"I-I'm not-"
"I'm sorry." Jack muttered. "I didn't mean it like that."
"I don't know what to do, Jack." Mark said. "I know how I feel about us, but I don't know what I'm going to do. Everyone is going to make us feel like we're nothing just for being together. It's easier to pretend and not think, but it's hard."

"I know. I know pretending seems easier, but it isn't." Jack said. "It isn't going to change anything between us. You can pretend all you want, but it's still there; we're still here."
"I know." Mark said.
Jack looked at Mark again, who was still looking up at the ceiling and just watched his eyes.
He saw how distressed Mark looked and just knew how hard he was thinking.
"We don't have to tell anyone." Jack said.
Mark turned his head and met his eyes.

"Wouldn't that be just as bad as pretending?" He asked.
"No," Jack said. "It would be about the same as it is now, except we don't have to ignore how we feel. We could just be us whenever we wanted, and not tell anyone anything."
"Really?" Mark asked.
"Yeah. Yeah, of course." Jack said. "I just- I really want to be with you. I could hide from the whole world if it meant being with you."
Jack flushed and looked down, awkwardly chuckling. Mark laughed too.

"Wow," he said, continuing to laugh.
"Sorry, that was-" Jack paused. "Maybe I'm too high for this conversation."
He said that, but he knew it wasn't true. He had barely smoked half a joint.
"I think you meant it." Mark said.
"I did."
Mark took his hand and rubbed his thumb over Jack's knuckles.

"When I said I wished you were a girl, I don't think I meant it." Mark said.
"I think I understand what you meant." Jack said.
"I don't think it would be the same if you were a girl. Well, of course it wouldn’t, but I mean my like- feelings. They wouldn’t be like this." Mark continued.
"I like us better this way, as we are."
"I do too." Jack said.

Mark tucked a piece of Jack's hair behind his ear and kissed him. It was reminiscent of their first kiss in the attic- the day Mark decided to teach Jack how to kiss. It was nice and it was genuine. It made Jack question why fear should hold either of them back if they can feel this happy all the time. Mark pulled away after a minute and spoke,

"I like being with you." He said.
"I like being with you too."
"I'm sorry for asking you to hide because of me." Mark said.
"Don't apologize," Jack said. "We aren't hiding, we're just being nonspecific."
"Yeah," Mark said. "Thank you, Jack."
Mark leaned his head on Jack's shoulder and Jack pulled a joint from his shirt pocket.
"You want another?" Jack asked.
Mark chuckled and kissed Jack's neck,
"Always."