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[you never expect it]
Mark opens the door with his hand up, ready to catch Doug´s fist as it falls again. I wonder how I knew it would be you.’
Doug´s shirt is halfway unbuttoned, jacket wrinkled and wrecked, and his hair sticking up in at least five different places. He grins and leans against the door frame. Mark.’
Mark sighs and looks past him into the hallway. At least this time there aren´t neighbors complaining. Yet. Come in.’
Doug laughs and brushes past him, smelling of whiskey and smoke. Ya know Mark, people never learn,’ he says, turning around so fast he would have fallen if Mark hadn´t caught him. They don´t. They just don´t learn.’
No they don´t,’ Mark says, grabbing onto Doug´s hip and arm to steady him, walking him towards the couch. Come on, sit down.’
You´d think they would, ya know? Years and years to learn, and I mean years. A whole lifetime of learning.’ Doug laughs and falls back onto the couch, reaching up and scrubbing at his eyes. In one ear, man.’
And out the other, yeah,’ Mark says, kneeling in front of him and starting on his shoes.
No. No, Mark, it doesn´t. It doesn´t go out the other ear. It just bats around inside your head. It´s like ’ He frowns and lifts one foot for Mark to get a better grip on it. It bats around in your head going, ya know, learn me. Listen to me. Remember me. But. You just think. Maybe not this time. Maybe it´s different this time. Just. This time.’
Mark shakes his head and bites back the bitching he can feel starting in his throat, gripping Doug´s shoelaces and trying to untangle them. What did you do to these things? I´m gonna have to cut ‘em off.’
Double knotted ‘em,’ Doug slurs, leaning back against the couch and looking down at Mark. Maybe maybe I double knotted the double knots too. The point is, they didn´t come untied again.’ He ends on a laugh that´s teetering on hysteria and Mark feels the urge to go out and find whoever made Doug do this and beat them to a bloody pulp.
Mark gives up and yanks so hard the laces break. Pulling off one shoe he drops it to the floor and grabs Doug´s other shoe. You wanna tell me what happened this time?’
Pfft,’ Doug says, waving a hand around. Same, ya know. Whatever. Doesn´t matter. Doesn´t change. See, that´s the thing, Mark, it doesn´t change. Nothing changes.’
Mark nods and finds that this shoe, at least, was easy to untie. He drops it to the floor next to the other one and looks up at Doug as he takes his socks off. Your father did this.’
My father didn´t do anything, Mark,’ Doug says, looking completely sober, and there´s something about that that just makes Mark´s hair stand up on end. That´s the point, Mark. He didn´t do anything. Just like he always did.’
Mark sighs and pats Doug´s knees. Come on. Take off your pants.’
Doug giggles, and it makes Mark smile because Doug is maybe the only thirty-five year old he knows that still giggles as much as he probably did when he was five. He starts unzipping his pants and has trouble with the buckle of his belt. People leave, Mark. People leave. They always leave. And it´s always when you don´t expect them to. I mean, part of you knows they will, but you never expect it,’ he says, looking up at him. It´s always this like, big shock.’
Mark thinks of Jen and nods. Because that had been coming for a long time and he´d never expected it either. Yeah.’
Mark. I Mark.’ Doug´s hands find his face and cup it, hold it in place, and Mark fights the instinct to back away. Doug leans forward and stares him down and Mark feels about two inches tall. People leave me. I´m a bad seed. I infect them.’
No,’ Mark says, hands landing on Doug´s legs to keep himself balanced. No, Doug, you´re not. People leave because people are selfish.’
Then why,’ Doug says, and if those are tears in his eyes Mark´s seriously gonna loose it. Then why do they always leave me?’
Mark shakes his head and Doug´s fingers tighten, like he´s afraid Mark´s gonna disappear if he lets go. I don´t know, Doug. I don´t know why people leave. I get left too.’
Doug shakes his head, eyes wandering over Mark´s face like he´s memorizing it. Mark thinks if he doesn´t have it memorized by now, well, he just never will. Except you, Mark,’ Doug says, looking back up into his eyes, confusion etched in the lines of his face. You´ve never left me. Why haven´t you left me?’
Because then who would barge into my apartment at one in the morning and wake up my neighbors,’ Mark says, because maybe Doug needs to laugh this off, but mostly Mark just doesn´t know how to answer. He´s asked himself the same question so many times he can´t even count them. It´s always just been impossible.
Doug´s laugh is gone before it´s even there. I do. I come in here at one in the morning, and you sober me up and you give me a place to sleep when no one else will. You´re here for me any time I need you to be, and you never complain and--’
Doug.’ Mark raises an eyebrow. I always complain.’
Doug laughs again, and this time it sticks. Okay. You always complain. But you don´t mean it, because the next time comes around and you do it all over again.’
Mark shrugs. That´s what friends do, Doug.’
Doug´s hands slip down to his neck, fingers leaving warm trails in their paths. Do I do that for you? Because I don´t think I do. I´m selfish, Mark. I´m self-involved and irresponsible and--’
You do when it counts,’ Mark says, voice strong as he squeezes Doug´s knee. Come on, it´s late, and you´re tired. You should go to--’
Do I ever tell you how much you mean to me,’ Doug asks, thumbs brushing over the side of Mark´s neck and Mark has to close his eyes because he can´t look at the pain on Doug´s face. Because you do, Mark. You mean everything to me.’
I know,’ Mark says, smiling. Come on, get some rest--’
I love you, Mark, do you understand that,’ Doug says, and he´s leaning forward again, face an inch away from Mark´s when Mark opens his eyes again. Do you get that? I don´t say that.’ Doug laughs and shakes his head. I don´t say that, ever, but I´m saying it to you because I need you to know that. I love you.’
Mark breathes out. I love you too, Doug.’
Doug smiles and shakes his head. But see, you don´t need to say that. You don´t need to, because I know. I know you do. But I do, because I don´t show it like you do. I don´t know how to. The only version of love I know is fucked up and twisted, and it ends in people being hurt and people getting left, and tears and pain.’
Mark blows out another gust of air and reaches up to grab Doug´s shoulders. Well I´m not going anywhere, Doug.’
Doug´s eyes are filled with tears again, and this is why Mark hates it when Doug drinks. Because Doug´s gotten really good at shutting his emotions off but even then he can hurt Mark from just a look. When he´s drunk and lets them out, it´s lethal. I swear to God, Mark, if you ever left me ’
Doug shakes his head and blinks, lets out a little laugh that´s nothing like a laugh at all. I wouldn´t know what to do with myself, Mark. I wouldn´t.’
If I haven´t left yet, I´m not going to,’ Mark says, going for levity and knowing he´s falling short. I mean it, Doug. I´m not going anywhere.’
Doug blinks his eyes dry and nods, clearing his throat, hands lifting to cup Mark´s face again. He shifts forward so fast Mark doesn´t know what´s happening until Doug´s lips are on his and his fingers are wrapped around his head pulling him forward. His hands slip from Doug´s shoulders to the back of the couch and he tries to pull back.
Please,’ Doug murmurs into his mouth, not letting him pull back. Please, just let me Mark, just please--’
Mark tells himself it´s just loneliness that makes him let Doug kiss him again. Just loneliness that lets him open his mouth to Doug´s tongue and makes him hard against Doug´s leg. The air has left his lungs and Doug tastes like he smells, whiskey and cigar smoke, and it feels like everything between them does. Easy and right, like this is just exactly how it´s supposed to be.
He lets himself fall into the kiss, feels himself grow so hard his mind is starting to trip up when Doug licks over his tongue. Doug´s sleepy deep growl rumbles all the way through his body to his toes and makes him whimper. His fingers clench into the back of the couch and Doug´s hands are so big around his head holding him in place, thumbs brushing over his scalp.
He can feel the zipper of Doug´s open jeans pressing into his stomach, his hard on just beneath it, and somehow that´s what makes this click, because Doug is on his couch and half out of his jeans because he´s drunk and a little broken and this is just wrong. It´s just wrong.
No,’ Mark says, and even to him it sounds like a weak attempt so he pulls back and clears his throat. Doug, we can´t do this.’
Doug´s eyes are flashing sex at him and Mark´s always heard the nurses talking under their breath about those bedroom eyes, but he´s never had them directed at him. It´s almost enough to make him tell his conscience to fuck off. I want you, Mark.’
Mark swallows and has to close his eyes. You´re drunk.’
Doug nods and his gaze drifts to Mark´s lips and then down his body, this long slow caress and Mark feels his breath catch. I am,’ Doug says, and his voice is doing things to Mark he´d never thought it would. Like making it impossible to think and making him incredibly hard. But this isn´t new Mark. It´s just the first time I´ve actually done anything about it.’
Mark swallows and goes for levity again, because that´s all he knows how to do. You think I´ve never heard that line before?’
Doug laughs and looks back up at him, meeting his eyes. You think it´s a line?’
I don´t know,’ Mark says, feeling suddenly drained, more tired than he´s ever been. But I know this is wrong.’
Why,’ Doug asks, shifting forward again, and it´s so hard to concentrate when Mark knows what those lips feel like against his. You and me? It´s the only right thing in my life, Mark.’
But Mark just shakes his head and leans back so he can think. Pushes off of Doug´s legs and sits on the table across from him. You´re drunk, and you´re not thinking straight.’
Doug´s smile has always been will-shattering, but never more so than now. Damn right I´m not thinking straight.’
Mark laughs and rolls his eyes, ducking his head. Doug.’
All right, all right,’ Doug says, reaching over and patting Mark´s hands before holding onto them. You´re right. This isn´t the best timing.’
The irony that he´s disappointed isn´t lost on Mark. No, it´s not.’
Doug stands up and shucks his jeans, and Mark´s about ten kinds of relieved to see that he´s wearing boxers. He scrubs at his face and lets out a grunt of frustration. Ya know, one of these days I´m gonna do this when I´m sober. What´s your excuse gonna be then?’
Mark laughs and looks up at him. I don´t know. I guess I´ll figure it out then.’
Doug smiles down at him and laughs, reaching down to pat his head. You´re full of shit, Mark. I could feel how hard you were.’
Mark feels himself flush. Yeah, well. So were you.’
I´m gonna take a piss,’ Doug mutters, scratching at his. It´s okay if I sack out on the couch?’
Yeah,’ Mark says, standing up and wavering when he notices just how close to Doug he´s standing. Of course.’
Doug nods and his eyes drift down Mark´s body again before meeting Mark´s eyes again. The amusement in them makes Mark want to laugh or hit him. Somehow he´s taken off guard when Doug steps forward again and kisses him, fingers looping over the top of his pajama bottoms to yank him closer. Doug´s knee slips between Mark´s leg and brushes against his erection. When Mark groans Doug starts laughing.
Yeah,’ he says, pulling back and looking at Mark with half-hooded eyes. I´m gonna do that again when I´m sober and you don´t have any valid excuses left.’
Mark swallows and tries to push down the urge to say that he hopes he does. He nods towards the couch and takes a step back. I´ll get the pillow and blanket.’
Doug just nods, chuckling to himself as he turns to go towards the bathroom. Mark gathers the pillows and the blankets and chucks them on the couch, in his room with the door closed by the time he hears the toilet flush.
That night he chokes back Doug´s name when he comes and wonders if Doug is doing the same thing on his couch.
The last thought he has is that he really should have known about this sooner.
It´s been coming for a long time, but he´d never expected it.