You leave me room for my imperfections
When I’m a mess and you jump right in
If I drift in the wrong direction
You turn the tide and you calm the wind
You will Find Me - Alex & Sierra
His meeting with Xuxi itself wasn’t a mistake, but it started from a mistake.
Mark is young, foolish. He hurt someone he shouldn’t, but he did, hurt him. And Taeyong was unfeelingly kind as ever, just like how he had let Mark use him to blow off some steam .
Taeyong always told him, “it’s okay,” but this time, he hadn’t been looking at Mark, hiding his ever-so-guarded eyes.
His voice was shaking, and Mark was too terrified to acknowledge what he’d done to say anything.
He got his things and ran.
And that’s how he finds himself here, sitting at the bottom of the stairs, crying himself silly with empty cans of beer rolling by his feet. He’s too knackered to know where he is, too intoxicated with alcohol in his blood to notice his surroundings.
His nose runs, like his tears. He tries to clean it with his sleeves except he’s wearing a t-shirt now. Snot and tears smeared all around his skin, it feels gross, like himself. Like Mark. He shouldn't be here wasting oxygen, he belongs in trash can like the other garbage.
He hurt Taeyong. Guilt feasts upon his broken heart, it doesn’t kill, it tortures him alive. Mark drowns himself in that pain of shame, in the alcohol that burns his throat. Another tear spills forth from his eyes, another sob.
He is stupid, disgusting. He should have died, run over by truck or something. But it’s not a vehicle that runs over him’ it’s a human, who accidentally tripped on Mark’s stretched out feet.
He falls, thankfully not face first, but it’s still painful because he lets out a loud yelp of pain as his knees hit the asphalt. Mark watches, dazed, through tear-clouded eyes, with alcohol-blurred mind, as the person continues stringing colorful words of expletives while attempting to gather himself into a sitting position.
He fails, long limbs tangled and twisted, and he ends up laying flat on the asphalt, Mark’s feet stuck awkwardly under his legs. He is heavy, he’s huge. Mark is too drunk to tell, apparently, the guy is equally gone as he is because he continues lying there, face-planted on the ground.
Time ticks, people come then go.. They’re probably laughing at him, at them, at Mark and the guy on his feet. But Mark is too drunk to care, and the guy, when he eventually turns his face to take a proper look at the culprit behind his fall, seems to be as frazzled too.
“You,” he slurs. Had Mark been sober enough, he’d have noticed the accent caressing his vowels. “Are you okay?”
Mark isn’t. Okay. He blinks, slow, like making certain the guy was real or if he was just a product of his buzzed mind.
But the warmth on his slowly dying feet is real, and so is the weight and the creeping cramp. Mark tries to wiggle his toes, but he can barely feel them. The guy still stares at him, brows knitted together.
He reminds Mark of Taeyong except Taeyong is obviously not here, there’s no way he would let Mark come close to him anymore.
Mark isn’t okay so he breaks down, crying.
Beneath him, the ground shakes. Or maybe he’s flying, he can barely feel his feet, only aware of the grip around his torso and the feel of another body pressed against his. There’s also voices. Accented. Mark blinks, and the grey asphalt beneath him twinkles.
The stranger. Who tripped on his feet.
Are you okay?
Mark blinks again, trying to shake his head but he’s too far gone to tell whether he’s really shaking his head or if the ground just decided on its own to swirl into spiral of black and grey, then colliding into colorful stars.
The stranger gasps, tightening his grip to stop Mark from falling. Falling. Why is he falling? His head spins. Is it the ground? The floor? Can you call asphalt ‘floor?’ Fingers are pressing onto his ribs. Voices hailing rain into his ears. It’s so noisy. Shut up. Shut up.
Mark may or may not have moaned out, “shut up,” but he cannot be too sure, not when he’s inebriated and he can barely tell whether the dancing horses he sees before him are real or not. Chances are they’re not real. Chances are he is too intoxicated to arrange his words properly.
Chances are he won’t remember any of this in the morning, but that guilt gouging deep between his ribs, hungrily out for his heart, will remain vivid and clear.
Mark doesn’t remember anything except warm hands, large eyes, and hot skin.
Mark wakes up in stranger’s room, in the stranger’s bed, with the very stranger snoring loudly beside him. Naked. Legs tangled with Mark’s own, and his arm heavily resting on Mark’s stomach.
Fingers leaving prints. It feels vaguely familiar.
There’s also warm breath tickling his skin, lips pressed against his brows, and prickling pain on his hips.
Before Mark can assess the situation, nausea hits him like freight-train. He jolts up awake, startling the stranger, then he throws up.
The stranger is Xuxi. Huang Xuxi. He said he goes by Wong Yukhei as well, and Mark can call him anything.
Mark introduces himself as ‘Minhyung’. Mark also apologizes and promises he’ll pay the laundry for Xuxi’s spoiled sheet, and hospitality. And the eggs because the egg he cooked for Mark is his last egg, same goes with the bread and the milk.
Xuxi said it’s fine, it’s nice to have a guest after living alone for so long. Mark has cleaned himself up, is wearing the smallest t-shirt Xuxi owns because is the guy is built tall like a fucking tower and he has the broadest shoulders Mark has ever seen; his cousin, Johnny, pales in comparison. The sleeves hang awkwardly over Mark’s elbow, he feels like he’s 5 years old all over again, drowning in his father’s clothes.
The dulling ache in his head tells him he’s not 5 years old for no 5 year old can get a hangover, but with how foolish he has been, he probably is still, mental-age wise.
He is stupid. That’s what he blurts out, and it catches Xuxi’s attention. He’s sitting across Mark, the table and plates half empty with eggs the only thing separating them, physically. Psychologically, they’re distanced by many; twenty years and couple of months existing without knowing each other, the baggage Mark carries and the ones Xuxi has on his own.
“How so?” Xuxi - the stranger - gets nothing but silence in return. Xuxi plays around with his eggs before taking a bite of them, munching through as he adds, “because you’re not trying to find out what happened between us yesterday and unsuspectingly eating whatever I feed you? If so, then, yeah. You’re stupid. You’re lucky I’m a good person, though, I didn’t poison any of this.”
“Because you’re eating this, too,” Mark points out, pretending he’s not hearing the first part. He’s not trying to remember what happened. His mind has supplied images, some flashes of skin and hot breath caressing it. A touch. Too close to home.
A voice, currently talking to him again. Mark pulls his lips into straight line, keeping any unnecessary words from escaping. Keeping his mind from remembering.
Xuxi’s not having any of it, it seems. Either he is a sadist or it’s his guilty conscience speaking, but he insists on telling Mark of what happened between them last night, when Mark was too drunk to remember and Xuxi was almost as gone as he was. Fortunately, he had enough of lucidity to remember. Or for Mark, it’s more on the unfortunate side.
It speaks to his character. Mark assumes Xuxi is a good person. Although it could be called into question when you consider the fact that he took a total stranger home, and, and -
Mark doesn’t remember. Doesn’t want to. He shoves it to the back of his mind. Too scared, too afraid. He had fucked up enough yesterday, he doesn’t want to know how he took horrible into worse in less than 24 hours. He loathes himself enough as it is now; knowing what happened between them last night is just rubbing salt into his fresh, open wound.
“I took you home, we crashed to my bed, and-"
Whatever happened between him and Xuxi. Whatever he might have said to Xuxi- “I don’t wanna know.”
“You don’t,” Xuxi does double take on him. “What?”
Mark is stubborn. They always said it brings him as much good as it brings him bad. “I don’t wanna know. Remember. Whatever happened, it’s a mistake. It’s done. Can’t we leave it at that?”
Like him leaving Taeyong, on the floor. Upper buttons ripped from his shirt. Lips bleeding. Glassy eyed.
It’s not. It’s never, and it’s not going to be. Nothing is.
“Just.” Mark resolutely avoids looking at Xuxi. Xuxi who has been so kind as to provide not only his bed for Mark to sleep, but also the last of his food to eat. He’s ungrateful. He’s disgusting. He doesn’t deserve any of this; this delicious breakfast. The clean clothes Xuxi lent him. This gentleness that Xuxi is treating him with.
“Can we just leave it like that?”
Xuxi startles him with an easy, “Okay.”
Mark automatically looks at him, gaze wavering, afraid. Hesitant. He expects contempt. He expects despisal.
He doesn’t expect a smile, small as it is, disappointed as it is, the edge is soft, curled up with understanding. Xuxi says again, a little bit louder, a little bit stronger. “Okay.”
His acceptance sends a wave of relief through Mark’s body, thrumming pleasantly under his skin. Mark knows it’s foolish of him after everything he had done, but his heart yearns - begs - for release. And Xuxi is practically dangling it before his nose; his understanding, his acceptance. It’s like a silent invitation, and Mark is too powerless to do anything but take it.
Xuxi could be mocking him, belittling how gullible he is, but Mark wants to believe, so desperately, that his smile, it spells something that starts with f and ends with two s . Something he’s not allowed to have but is dying for. All he wants is to keep his heart out of danger, and if believing something unguaranteed is the only way to save himself, then believe he will.
It’s stupid. He is stupid. He hurt someone, and he deserves to be punished. But here, Xuxi is giving him anything but that. He is giving him kindness, hospitality. Giving him delicious omelettes rich with cheese and the last of his milk.
Mark owes him. Something. Everything. He wants to repay this debt , except he doesn’t know how. He is not capable of thinking properly now with the dull ache drumming in the back of his head, his heart bleeding profusely with the knife of guilt still embedded deeply between his ribs. He can only smile, weak, and Xuxi replies with the widening of his own.
His heart skitters, scrambles for the drop of brilliance Xuxi’s grin radiates, anything to save his pathetic self from being lost in the dark. “Thank you,” Mark murmurs. His voice was quiet, Xuxi’s wordless kindness a thousand times louder. Swallowing, Mark repeats himself, “thank you, Xuxi.”
Xuxi doesn’t only say, “you’re welcome!” He also goes around the table to give Mark a hug. Mark holds him back. A stranger. He remembers he had been held the night before, with rougher hands but same tenderness.
There’s a gentle yet reassuring pat on his back. Mark inhales, deep, a scent that peeks inside his jumbled memory.
He doesn’t hate it.
Mark doesn’t know if it was him or it was Xuxi who started it, or maybe he knew, but all he cares about right now is that they’re kissing and Xuxi’s large hands are all over him. His touch, it burns. It feesl like punishment.
Mark had hurt Taeyong.
He deserves this .
He doesn’t even know if Xuxi is his real name. Sure, he said he goes by with at least two names, but whether any of them is real or not, he doesn’t know.
Xuxi did call him stupid. Xuxi did say Mark is lucky since Xuxi is kind. But Mark is left with no means to tell how much truth there was in those statements. Xuxi could be a leader of drug cartel, and Mark wouldn't even know. Like he doesn’t know how this started. When Xuxi started undressing him and why Mark even consented to this.
Yes, he did. He said, “yes,” when Xuxi asked, “is this okay?” He said, “yes,” when Xuxi asked him, “can I kiss you?”
He remembers hugging Xuxi, remembers the moment he started crying to the point there was barely any difference between his sobbing and his talking. Xuxi held him through, Xuxi said nothing and listened. The pats changed into long fingers caressing his hair, then somehow they ended up cupping Mark’s face with Xuxi’s large obsidian eyes boring into him.
“You said you don’t wanna remember.” Deep voice. He sounded like Taeyong, looked like Taeyong, but he is not Taeyong. His shoulders are broader, his height is incredibly taller, his palms are larger, and he can easily pin Mark down without even trying.
Taeyong couldn’t pin him down any longer since Mark entered 3rd year of high school, puberty hitting him like freight train, adding more inches to his height and some to his shoulders.
Taeyong often looked at him with wistfulness akin to nostalgia.
Taeyong would look at him that way no longer. Nothing but rejection, contempt.
“I-" don't want to remember. Want to forget. Want to be punished. Want to just breathe and be. Want to sleep. Forever. Want to run. Want nothing but peace of mind. Want to be forgiven. Want to forget. Want to apologize. Want to forget. Want to- “I-"
“You don’t know,” Xuxi murmured. His eyes were searching Mark’s face, thumb caressing his cheek. “You don’t know what you want.”
He fucking knew. “I didn’t-"
The taller boy continued. “It’s okay, if you don’t want to tell me, or if you don’t want to remember, or if you don’t know anything. Everyone gets lost sometimes. It’s totally okay, you know?”
Mark wanted to say it isn’t; okay. He also wanted to say that he didn’t know what to want nor what to do. At the moment, all he wanted was to forget because it’s easier that way, it’s convenient. He doesn’t have to try, doesn't have to make an effort to set things right. His friendship with Taeyong is a castle falling into ruin but when Mark barely has enough to keep himself together, how’s he supposed to keep that one upright?
Everything’s too much for Mark, he doesn’t want to think, he doesn’t want to speak, he doesn’t want to know nor do anything. He’s left with question marks and was left to stumble in the dark. He just wanted to sleep and forget, and hope that when he wakes up, everything will be fine again. It’s easier that way. It’s fucking easy.
He knew it won’t; nothing ’s going to be alright, nothing’s going to be easy, at least as far as Taeyong’s concerned.
But him? “Minhyung-ah?”
“I don’t wanna,” he started sobbing again, throat growing slick, words were slipping. His eyes got wetter and wetter, he furiously tried to scrub them away but Xuxi stopped him, replacing Mark’s rough hands with his big, gentle ones.
He’s tired, too tired. The day had barely begun, he didn’t even remember half the things he did before he passed out yesterday, he still had class this afternoon, but Mark’s already too weary, rusting chains called sin shackled to his ankle. He didn’t have the strength to stand up, let alone walk, dragging the dead weight behind his tracks.
Xuxi gathered Mark into his arms once again, sweet nothings were whispered to his ears. A prayer rather than a lullaby, a way out rather than forgiveness, and Mark needed the latter but he knew right now, all he’s privy to was the former.
So, he took it.
It happened, like everything else in the world just tumbled into being and everything slotted into place. His eyes met Xuxi’s, there was a thumb near the corner of his lips, his own fingers digging into Xuxi’s bare shoulder.
He didn’t say, “ help ,” at least not verbally, but Xuxi heard it anyway. He asked Mark if it’s okay to kiss him, voice wavering with uncertainty but resolution to help like steel in his midnight eyes.
Kind, kind stranger, Xuxi. Mark smiled, timid, nodded just as uncertain but he closed his eyes, a sign of trust, then dug his fingers deeper into the taller boy’s skin upon feeling his lips on his own.
The simple contact burned, hot with shame and salvation. Xuxi deepened the kiss, Xuxi, a total stranger, Mark’s whole body screamed with fear and trepidation, he was about to flinch until a voice cackled in his head;
you deserve this.
Fire. They said fire not only burns but heals, purifies. And if Xuxi’s touch is fire, one to cleanse and absolve the grimes called sin, then Mark is more than willing to have it scorch him, singe him inside out until he got himself all refined and clarified.
Any wounds from the burns, he can sustain. “Please.” Later. “Xuxi, please .”
He didn’t even know what he’s asking. The way his body trembles was for a reason he refused to acknowledge. The fear of having someone foreign touching - claiming - his body was the fear he kept on denying.
And now, as Xuxi lowers him to the mattress, his knees straddling Mark’s hips, eyes blown dark with anticipation, Mark thinks he deserves this.
The image of Taeyong, shaking with fear and disbelief at him the night before flashing red in his mind. Mark swallows, doesn’t flinch when Xuxi reaches between his legs.
Closing his eyes, Mark thinks; I deserve this.
Xuxi’s meant to be the fire, his touch fiery licks of shame to penalize Mark for his sin. But none of this, none of this gentle touch , none of this affectionate caress, felt chastising.
It’s Mark’s first time, he cries a lot, both from the volcano of emotion rattling under his bones and the pain of, well, the first time. With a stranger, a stranger who’s kind enough to take Mark into his home, feed him, and sort of teach him how two men can have sex.
It’s awkward as hell, lots of bumping, umm-ing,and ahh-ing, and Mark swears Xuxi laughed a lot at the bumbling mess they’re being. Yet, he stays.
He doesn’t ask why when Mark told him not to hold back. He stops when Mark told him to go on despite how painful it is to have a finger inside of him for the first time. He stays still when Mark told him to move after he’s fully buried in Mark. Instead, he kisses him slow and sweet until Mark is relaxed enough and the sting gradually subsides.
He wipes every single tear that falls, he licks them even, kisses the trail of faint silver with heart-breaking tenderness. He doesn’t treat Mark like he’s made of glass, certainly, he doesn’t rush the first time, but once they go, he’s merciless. He’s fast, barely giving Mark time to catch his breath.
His kisses are as bruising as his grips. His touch is foreign. Alien. He’s unknown and humans fear the unfamiliar.
Mark fears too, not Xuxi, himself. This boy who willingly have sex with a stranger. This boy who’s too blinded with lust that he accidentally hurt someone precious to him.
He doesn’t know himself, maybe this boy, with stranger’s cock deep inside of him isn’t even himself. Not Mark Lee. There’s no way Mark Lee can sleep with someone whose identity is obscure. There’s no way Mark Lee can hurt his friends.
Xuxi hooks Mark’s legs on his shoulder, going faster until Mark is practically half-folded beneath him, crushed under his weight. Mark cries harder, his muscles ache everywhere, the burn of Xuxi’s cock sliding in and out of him in a maddening speed that sends him delirious.
He cannot form any coherent sentences, just grapples for Xuxi’s back, anything to keep him grounded despite the floating of his mind. Or maybe he’s just seeking for purchase because he can feel it; the way everything that he has come to learn and know is falling apart all around him.
It’s a scary, scary feeling; falling, not knowing what lies ahead, not knowing how painful it can get. And compared to bracing for the potentially fatal impact, he’d rather not know; of himself, of this boy panting like animal as his body was being pleasured by practically unknown hands.
“Minhyung. Minhyung-ah,” Xuxi pants heavily beside his ear, his hips moving relentlessly, chasing after his release with need, angling his thrust so he keeps on driving into Mark’s sweet spot. “Are you?”
Mark doesn’t know what he’s asking, what kind of answer he’s expecting. What would be appropriate. Everything is beyond him, even thinking. Everything feels so good when should be ashamed, all thoughts desert him immediately every single time Xuxi hits that bundle of nerves inside of him.
It’s getting even scarier, he’s terrified. He cannot think. He doesn’t know what happening aside from how good it is; having Xuxi ramming into him, it gets even better once he gets his hand around Mark’s cock, stroking it in time with his thrusts.
Xuxi’s groan is animalistic, shaking Mark to his very core and the smaller boy can feel it too, Xuxi turning him into one; an animal, driven by instinct, strung by a need so primal. He claws on Xuxi’s back, mouthing along his shoulder. Xuxi moves faster, chasing his release. He’s gone, so far gone, taken by the wave of their desire.
But it’s better, Mark thinks, than being whisked away by despair. He’d rather not know himself if it was him shrouded with guilt and remorse. He’d rather cast away that shell crusted with the crime of his greed than rotting inside of it.
He’d rather be born anew, purged with this fire of Xuxi’s caresses until his skeleton is bleached white. His flesh will flee back to him, latching onto his sanitized cartilage to create a new him, rebirth celebrated by the contracting of his lungs and the flowing of his blood. By the pulsating of his heart, he is back alive, a new person. A child reborn.
And Minhyung , that shall be his name.