title: Bones (9/10)
disclaimer: Based on the Social Network idea of Mark Eduardo, but in no way true. All from my own head.
A/N: I wrote this story 9 years ago, then I went away before I could post the ending. I thought I'd lost it and couldn't face rewriting it, but recently found it in an old email. Posting this for my own satisfaction in completing the story after all these years. Thank you to readers of years gone by.
Continued from here.
Mark is dying. Eduardo is sure of it. There is no life left in him; there is no spark in his eyes. His mind and heart may have a new will to survive, but Mark’s body appears to be quickly giving up on him. The first days in hospital after the transplant, Mark is at his very worst, so weak he can barely talk, only managing to croak, his voice hoarse and pained, a few words to Eduardo when he is allowed in to visit. His skin is white and clammy, and every breath he takes seems to scrape through him as though it is his last. Eduardo, already dangerously close to breaking point, finds himself slowly sinking into a deep, dark depression, and no matter how many times he tells himself – reminds himself – that Mark needs me, he still finds himself sitting on his bed every night after being in the hospital, working his way through a bottle of Jack Daniels in the flickering light of mindless TV.
“You look like shit,” Mark mumbles at Eduardo at the end of his first week in hospital, and Eduardo, whose only sleep in days has been drunkenly passing out at four in the morning, can’t argue. But he knows that Mark wants him to.
“This coming from a man whose last shower involved a nurse, a sponge and his bed,” Eduardo half-heartedly counteracts, but it makes Mark’s lips twitch in what could almost be called a smile. His eyes drop closed and he breathes in a shallow breath; the air rattles hollowly in Mark’s lungs in a way that chills Eduardo’s soul.
He’s dying, Eduardo thinks again, and again. The words run through his mind like a ticker tape, over and over until they’re all he can see. Without realising, he’s leaned forward, closer to Mark and Mark, when he forces his eyes open in an effort that seems Herculean, tilts his head sideways, as if he wants to be closer to Eduardo but can’t make his body move.
“Hey,” Eduardo whispers. Mark’s eyes slide closed again, as if he doesn’t have the strength to hold them open.
“Wardo,” he murmurs, and his fingers twitch as though he’s reaching out. Eduardo encloses Mark’s hand in his own.
“Wardo, I –“ he stops, eyes scrunching tight for a moment, making Eduardo’s throat tighten. “Wardo, I – I want you to know –“
“Shh, Mark, it’s okay. Please don’t worry, please, Mark. Please, just get better, please, please…”
He knows he’s rambling, begging; he knows it but Mark sounded like he was saying goodbye and Eduardo needs more time.
Days become weeks and, miraculously, Mark holds on. He’s weaker than a new born, as fragile as a baby bird. He’s sicker than the worst hangover Eduardo’s ever known, suffering a deep, retching pain that overwhelms Mark and makes Eduardo feel wholly powerless. Really Eduardo shouldn’t even be there, but they take every precaution and it’s not as if he can be anywhere else. How could he be anywhere else? His heart is with Mark anyway, is part of Mark. Mark is breaking and so is Eduardo, not in the same way, not even close, but it’s going to have the same outcome.
Still, Mark holds on.
“I want to go home,” Mark says one afternoon. He’s staring listlessly out of the window at the gloom and battering rain, so Eduardo isn’t sure if he’s speaking to him or just voicing a thought aloud. It’s such a simple statement but something flickers within Eduardo that feels unfamiliar. A dim candlelight deep within, the smallest sliver of hope.
“I know you do,” Eduardo replies, smiling for what feels like the first time in days. “I know you do. I want to take you home. Soon. As soon as I can.”
They look at each other. Mark self-consciously tugs at the woolly hat that covers his patchy head. Eduardo knows every crease of Mark’s face, understands every expression that crosses it, but the words that suddenly come out of Mark’s mouth floor him.
“Wardo, I love you.”
Mark says this so clearly, not shy, not uncertain. A statement of absolute fact. Eduardo stands, moves forward, kneels down at the side of Mark’s bed. He takes Mark’s hand in his. They’re both trembling. But Eduardo knows, he must do this right. He wants to be as brave as Mark, in every aspect of his life, but most especially in this moment.
“Mark, I love you. You are my whole life.”
Mark nods, as if he knows this, as if it makes perfect sense.
“I’m so grateful for you,” Mark says, softly this time. “My wonderful man. My best friend. I want you to know…”
Tears tumble down Eduardo’s cheeks, but he doesn’t say anything, he’s not even sure he could if he tried. He’s choked with emotion, overwhelmed with love.
“I want to thank you, for everything. You are the best part of my life. I feel so lucky and –“ He stops to breathe slowly for a moment, hands clenching slightly in Eduardo’s as he overcomes a moment of deeper pain.
“Mark,” Eduardo chokes out.
Mark’s eyes never leave Eduardo’s, flickering over his face as if he’s memorising it, although they both know every line of one another.
“Eduardo,” Mark says, and it stuns Eduardo to hear his proper name used for once. “You’ve given me everything that I have. Everything I have is because of you, and it’s yours. I wish I could share it with you.’
Eduardo opens his mouth to interrupt but Mark shakes his head quickly. “I just have to say thank you. I wanted to thank you. For this life. For being with me.”
There are no words left to say. Eduardo can’t speak; he rests his head against Mark’s hipbone and sobs into the sheets, clutching Mark’s hand desperately and Mark, his love, his soul, takes his free hand and places it on Eduardo’s head, the dying man comforting the one who will be left behind.
And, beyond imagination, beyond belief, Mark holds on.
It’s stubbornness, Eduardo thinks as he watches Mark shuffle unaided to the bathroom. He’s more damned stubborn than cancer. Mark can sit himself up in bed. He can have a conversation. He can sleep for hours at a time without waking up in crippling agony. He smiles. Yesterday, Eduardo made him laugh. The room is filled with a golden light that surrounds the two of them and Mark is stronger. He eats. He showers. These activities exhaust him, but he can do them. It’s easy to hope.
But in the darkness of night, when Eduardo is alone, he reminds himself of this tightrope they’re walking across, carrying Mark’s life on the line, and they could so easily fall.
A black cloud of despair envelops Mark and Eduardo as they prepare for Mark to return home. They both know that the meeting with Dr Lewis that afternoon will determine the next steps, will decide if this has all been worth it or not, and neither of them can speak about it or think of anything else. Eduardo busies himself packing Mark’s things, tidying the room, needlessly making the bed. Mark stares blankly out of the window at the view they both know so well and never want to see again.
“Mark, “Eduardo says softly, kneeling down beside him. “It’s time.”
Marks nods, not looking at him.
“Hey,” Eduardo says, placing a gentle hand on Mark’s cheek and turning his face to him. “Mark, I’m right here with you.”
Mark nods again, takes a deep breath, lets Eduardo help him up. They leave the room, hands locked tightly together, drawing strength from one another. Desperate prayers race through Eduardo’s mind, please God let him be okay please God please please let him stay with me please God please. He knows that they will know instantly, the moment they enter that office, see Mark’s doctor, taste the vibe in the air, what the results are.
The door is ajar, welcoming them in. They hesitate, look at one another. They know their love. They don’t need to say a thing.
Mark take a deep, courageous breath and knocks, pushes the door open. Eduardo follows, his palm pressed against Mark’s, and there is Dr Lewis, standing up from behind his desk, smiling at them, smiling from ear to ear.