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This is Devotion (I’m lost)

Chapter Text

Whenever you break, I'll fix it for you,
I'm the one who drives to you at night
and maybe we'll fall a little deeper,
I think our little heart will be alright

Devotion - Ellie Goulding

:::

“My battery’s dead. I’m sorry I couldn’t pick up your call sooner.”

“‘s okay.”

“But you’re not.”

Mark blinked sad, lazy. He’s worn, sated. Riddled with guilt and fatigue. “Xuxi.”

“I’m here to listen, remember.”

He sighed, and his weak hand slapped Xuxi on the chest. “You’re asking.”

“Minhyung.”

“...You’d hate me.”

“Shoot.”

Xuxi didn’t tempt him. Xuxi didn’t coax him. Xuxi was just there, holding him and listening. He’s here to listen. A body to hold. A shoulder to cry on.

Xuxi. Sweet, gentle Xuxi.

“Minhyung, I-"

“Remember the guy I hurt?

“The guy you? Yeah? The one who made you a ‘sinner?’”

“I met him. With his boyfriend? Maybe?”

Xuxi scrunched his nose, looking confused. “You don’t know?”

Under Xuxi’s blanket, it’s warm. In Xuxi’s hold, he’s safe. With Xuxi, nothing can hurt him. Even if his words were tinged with bewilderment.

Because Xuxi never, judge him, instigate him.

“I don’t. I never met him since I met you. Avoided them. I don’t think I can handle seeing them. And today.”

He felt lips, warmly soothing on his temple. A hand, softly rubbing circles on the small of his waist. “I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong. I deserve it.”

“I’m sorry I couldn't come earlier. Nor for that, you meeting them.”

“I know,” Mark put his hand on Xuxi’s jaw, drawing his face close for a kiss. Barely touching, simple. “I deserve that.”

Xuxi didn’t judge him. Xuxi didn’t instigate. Xuxi listened. Xuxi’s there. Xuxi held him, an anchor to hold. He made Mark stand even if the ground was falling under.

Xuxi is the dark to fall into. A home to come back to.

“Do you hate me?”

All he got was a kiss. Closest thing to mercy.

:::

“I think it’s time for us to forgive ourselves, each other.”

Jaehyun’s hold on Taeyong was steady. Mark thought of another set of hands, strong as hawser. Steadying anchor. He needed those hands. He longed for and dreamt it ancient. Were Jaehyun’s hands the same for Taeyong, a lifeline saving him from drowning?

“It’s okay, Mark. I forgive you.”

He could never truly be, unless he had Xuxi around. And that time, he let himself be healed.

Good morning,” Xuxi kisses his eyes, sluggish, barely awake. His skin on Mark’s, his scent silky mantle over Mark’s red and purple-marred cream.

Mark had a wound opened and bleeding. Not quite on his chest, but somewhere in his heart. Between his ribs, maybe. Between his collarbones, also likely.

“Omelette? You got cheese and eggs?” Xuxi mouths along his jaw, laughter on his touches.

Mark grins. Surely, this time the wound is healed.

:::

“When I lost my mother, I was eight.”

“So young.”

“I know, yeah? My father, he was a jerk. He had lots of affairs. Lots of women. My mother couldn't bear it anymore, it drove her to,” a pause. A gaze. Long distant.

His mother. Lovelorn gazes, familiar, heartaches. Yukhei knew. This boy in his arms, what he turned him into. He knew. He survived. His mother closed her eyes.

She said goodbye .

“Xuxi?”

“Depression. Insanity. She decided to took her own life.”

Minhyung, in his arms, legs tangled together, under the blanket, well-loved and sated, kisses him, murmurs a soft, “I’m sorry.”

“I. I reminded her.”

“Of?”

He takes his hands, kisses each tip of his fingers. Yukhei's sun, it rises and sets under the command of these fragile fingers. “My father.”

Minhyung draws a breathe. Spills a pained, “I'm sorry.” Tarnished pearl. A smudge he can erase. He wants to polish that sadness away. Minhyung’s sorrow, what he couldn't do for his mother.

“I spent my entire life thinking that I had killed my mother. She took her own life because she couldn't bear living with me, living with her own son who reminded me of the man she had loved, with her entire life but she couldn't keep.”

“That shouldn't be-”

“How am I supposed to know when nobody told me otherwise? She- in her last days, she never looked at me. And people said I looked like him. A lot. I just, pieced them together. The puzzle fit. I didn't know.”

“I'm sorry. “ Another apology, a mistake he didn't owe but hope he did so he could redo them, so he could repent them.

And Yukhei knew about it, an illogical feeling he's been carrying his whole life. A venom that streamed in his blood, pumped out of his heart.

He wanted to change that. He will. He can. Minhyung looks at him, him, his Polaris. Not overshone by luminous moon. Him. Young son with soul broken and bones. Him. Weak, feeble, but the strongest fortress Minhyung had come to know. Him .

“I never feel like I worth it, I never feel like I can ever amount for anything. After what I've done, with these blood on my hands.”

“You're not-”

“You know,” he says, smiling at Mark whose eyes widens, probably seeing himself in Yukhei's eyes. Definitely finding himself; small, lost, begging to be found, bleeding, and flowing scars unbound. Blinded. “You know how it feels to live with this, this...

“I'm sorry.”

“Is apologising the only thing you know?” Yukhei chuckles, fond, the curve of his lips sewn with nostalgia.

Minhyung doesn't smile, he doesn't laugh, doesn't take the humor, but his eyes twinkle with distant euphoria. This time, it's his turn to take Yukhei's hand in his. Kissing the longed-for skin. Yukhei thinks this is good, this is fine, passing day and night. This is right .

“I thought I would never be.”

“What?” Minhyung murmurs on his knuckle, words a cerulean wave washing rocks to gleam.

And he is the sun that shines on his stone. Sets him a bright with his magnificent heat. Encourages words to fly out of his mouth, free from the strict confines of his breastbone. “I thought I would never be fine. After what I did to my mother. Until I found you. But then after what I did to you. I thought I would never be fine, would never be okay.”

“Why?” Did you leave? Minhyung doesn't have to ask for Yukhei to know, he hears him, always. Months and heartlessly passing days later, it doesn't change. Yukhei always hears him.

“I had to. My uncle made me leave. My uncle, he’s the one who's been taking care of me. My brother. If it wasn't for him, I don't know where I'd end up at. It's thanks to him that I could live the life I have right now. He also gave me this job, modelling, he runs one of the biggest agencies in Hong Kong. Technically, he made us meet, sort of.” A frown, “or not, it was me. I  was the one who caught the brand's attention, not him pitching it for me. But considering he got me the job in the first place.”

“Do you love it?”

“My uncle?” Minhyung shakes his head. “Oh, my job, yeah, yeah. Modeling. I do. I love it. I'm really, really good at it.”

He's smiling, perhaps. Minhyung, finally, shows a hint of a smile, a red lustre in his eyes. Oh, he must have been smiling, genuine enough to invite the same smile on Minhyung’s face. “You do,” and Yukhei just nods at his words, feeling a little shy. “And your uncle...”

The sky turns, a darker shade of black, rain drizzles down, but it's not a storm, at least. Yukhei takes shelter under Minhyung's roof, holding him tighter. “I love him. He’s the closest thing I had for a parent. Have. A family. But it wasn't exactly easy between us. I, I wouldn't judge him, my father was way worse, makes my uncle's emotional constipation rainbow and sunshine in general.”

“He cares about you.” A question. A statement. Yukhei can't tell them apart. Minhyung might have meant both anyways.

“He does. He's. All my life I just,” a long sigh, another coaxing stroke of lips on his skin. Waves kissing his rock. “I just want to have someone who stays with me for me, because they want to stay with me. Not because they had to, not because they're obliged to. I thought my uncle, I thought he...”

He falters. Stone between his keys. A boulder in his throat. Minhyung, his sugar, the one he used to undo, this time Minhyung's the one doing it, setting him free, gently prying his wings open so words can fly. “It's okay, Xuxi, it's okay.”

“I thought he didn't need me beyond my talent, modeling. If you can call it a talent. And I'm just another one of his responsibilities. I thought if I didn't live up to his expectation, he'd...he would...”

“He didn't.”

Leave . He stayed, first, before Minhyung. They're just standing on different ends back then, now that they've met in the middle, he's there to stay. “He. Do you want to know why I had to leave?”

Minhyung’s expression turns sour, Yukhei cringes.

“Sorry. That was stupid, really stupid.”

He just gets a playful bite on his hand. “You owe me.”

“I do. Sorry. So, hmm, where should I start, remember that morning I got a phone call?”

“When you said I'm important?”

Pressing a kiss to his forehead, Yukhei says, meaning every single words, “you are.”

“And so are you, Xuxi,” Minhyung sighs, content. “So are you.”

They trade words with kisses for a while, slow and sweet. Spring comes to last, cheerful pink and pastel blue eternal. In the warmth of its visit, Xuxi finds his words again, “you are. You are the most important person to me. I’m sorry I had to leave, I’m sorry I had to leave because I couldn’t control my temper, my emotion, but he-”

“Wait, wait, he? Temper? Emotion? What are you talking about?”

Realizing he’s talking in wrong order, Yukhei organizes himself, he explains to Minhyung the reason for his sudden departure. That blasted bastard named Can-Lie, his filthy mouth, the swinging punches he regretted only because it cost him time with Minhyung, not because it broke the vile doofus’s jaw. “My uncle was really, really , upset, and it terrified me. A lot. I love you, I really, really do, but I, my uncle-”

“You love him too,” Minhyung graces him with another kiss, forgiveness, understanding. How easy it is for Minhyung, to forgive, to give his admission. How lucky it is for Yukhei to have found him. He’d ask later how could Minhyung pardon him so easily, but then he knew already, didn’t he?

Minhyung knew how it feels to be your own enemy.

“You love him, you respect him. You let him down with your, uhh, violence? You had no other choice but to go back home?”

“Pretty much, the easiest way to explain this whole mess. I was stupidly violent, that upset my uncle, and he made me go home as punishment.” Yukhei admits, ashamed. “Are you, would you?”

Another unasked yet understood question. There’s no hesitation coming from Minhyung when he replies, only trust, only acceptance, only his small arms, extended like wings, open like home. Welcoming. “That’d be really hypocritical of me if I didn’t forgive you. I think, I think I hurt you as much as your goodbye hurt me. I, didn’t I hurt you first?”

Yukhei wants to retort, the rejection trembles in anger under his bones. “You didn’t-”

“I should have been honest with you to begin with. If only I did, things, maybe, would turn different for us.”

“Minhyung-ah.”

“Did I,” a pause. A much needed comma. Minhyung breathes in, then out, then in, then Xuxi counts to three in his head. Calm down. Memories comes, notes of an old song; Minhyung, trembling, scared, needing his guide, needing his hands.

This is it . This is them .

Yukhei, Xuxi was there. And this time, today, he’s here too as well. Saved, only to save his savior in return.

“I’m aware that you were never actually in love with me.”

In his arms, Minhyung freezes. The boy looks like Xuxi just hit him with lightning.

“You’re just using me to get through a difficult phase in your life. We’re just, living on borrowed time, I guess. I tried not to fall for you, you know. But it’s kind of difficult for me because, because you stayed.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You stayed, and that’s all I ever want, all I ever need. You stayed for me, Minhyung-ah. There’s no tie that binds us, you and me. There’s no obligation. No responsibility. Just us. Strangers. Stumbled upon each other. Drunk, stupid, fumbling, you weren’t in love with me, but you needed me.”

“I did,” Minhyung says, voice soaked with apology, with guilt. Xuxi doesn’t want to hear the blame spinning out of Minhyung’s lips, he just wants a melody.

He picks it up, riding on the passage, stitching the broken notes. Minor chord goes, slow yet steady, fingers dance on keys ivory, fingers pluck and strum the silver string to lead the symphony. “You stayed, and I would ask you to come clean first but I thought it was too much because I knew it was a difficult time for you. Beside, I wasn’t sure if I had any right to. I never felt like I ever have the right to. I always, always, believed that I’m disposable, for anyone, for my family, for you even.”

“You weren’t. Oh God, Xuxi, I’m sorry I made you-”

“No, no, Minhyung, it wasn’t you. It’s me. It’s me and my past. My mother. My family, I have carried this scar since before I even met you. Don’t you blame yourself, Sugar,” he smiles, hoping it comes out as sweet and true, hoping it can dry the pooling tears in Minhyung’s eyes. “You have your own burden to bear, and I have mine. You had taken me in, unconditionally. You couldn’t give me your honesty, but nor did I to you. Who am I to demand anything from you? I told myself every night that I had no obligation to tell you because I’m nobody to you just like you are-”

“You’re not nobody to me.”

Laughing at the interruption, Yukhei continues, “nobody to me. But yeah, see, who am I, who are we,” he kisses him again, on lips that tremble under the weight of lined up words. “Kidding. You’re not just nobody to me, you can never be just another body to warm my bed, to fuck, to play lovers with. You are the one I love. But I’ve lost the one I loved a long time ago because of me, myself, I didn’t, didn’t think I ever have the right to be loved.”

“But I do,” Minhyung says, strong, secure, and blue. The ocean, the aquamarine fortress Yukhei had fallen into. The azure chest of life he’s coming back to. “I do love you, Xuxi. Don’t ever feel- please, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry if  I made you feel that way, but don’t, no more, please? I will make it up to you. If my lies ever hurt you, which I’m sure they did. Fuck, fuck it, Xuxi, please-”

Yukhei kisses him, tells him it’s okay, he forgives him. All the lies. All the fronts. All the tales he spun out of his fear and insecurities. It’s okay because Yukhei lied as much to him, about his identity. About his mother. About his life in Hong kong, about practically everything.

And it should be making them terrified, to know that everything they have is nothing but castles built by bricks of lies. But it’s okay, it’s gonna be , Yukhei kisses his promise, his reassurance. His vow that this is going to work out, they’re going to make it work. They’ll try, this time with more truth in their words, nothing more needed in their touches. Their touches have always been honest. Wanting to heal, wanting to feel.

Wanting to close opened seams and leaking wounds. Minhyung had been broken, bleeding all alone, licking his wounds, until Xuxi had found him and picked him up, carefully tending to his scars with hands gloved in little truth yet intention sincere. Yukhei had been broken too - is, still - he knew how it feels, and he cannot stand seeing Minhyung go through the same thing. Alone.

“Have I ever make you feel unloved?”

“Never,” came his answer, a whisper but no less sincere. “Even if I knew you weren’t actually in love with me, what mattered the most for me was that you needed me, you made me feel like I’m something.”

“I did. I still do, and now I love you,” Minhyung cups his face, looking at him as if he’s making certain, making sure, that this Wong Yukhei, Huang Xuxi on his bed is the one he’s longing for. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“You have nothing to make up for, Minhyung-ah.”

“But I didn’t- I should have told you-”

“And I didn’t tell you anything either, so let’s just say we’re even, okay? Let’s stop saying sorry, for now. If we, oh fuck I already hate the idea of it, but if time comes for us to fight, let’s make up, and reserve our sorry for later, not now. For now, for now I just want to find you, ourselves, us. I just want to learn about you, you about me. Deal?”

Minhyung answers him with a kiss again, sweet, chaste. Yukhei can live with this alone, this affection, this heart-searing titillation. “Deal. Deal, so you have to tell me okay? Everything. Your fear, your worry. I know how it feels to live with them, though surely you know it better than I do.”

“Oh, very intimately,” Yukhei gives him a playful grin.

Minhyung bites his lip, equally playful, giggles freed from his throat. “And I promise I will tell you as much, everything you want to know about me. No more lies?”

“Okay,” he says, almost breathless, looking at Minhyung with unchanging wonder. His Sugar, traces the contours and planes of his face, matching the Minhyung from his memory with the boy in his arms. “Anything for you, Sugar.”

“No more princess?” Minhyung teases.

Yukhei laughs, amends himself, “anything for you, Princess.” Then his smile turns, mellow blue like a garden in mid-winter. Minhyung wants him to tell him everything, his doubt, his insecurities, so he braves himself to ask, “was I even?”

“I’m so-,” slipped out of his lips, he bit them, caught them before they acted. “I was- You were- I didn’t mean to.”

Minhyung didn’t exactly answer his question, but Yukhei heard him anyway. His ‘ You were everything to me,’ because he always does, hear him. Find him. For he’s always been here to listen, to hear Minhyung’s unspoken words and practiced lies, to keep them under his - their blanket from now on. Saves them in his treasure chest, the small fragments he’s allowed to have. He embraces them, back then and now, like he embraces Minhyung with his love. With his selfless forgiveness.

It might have been his ego that started it all, but in the end, it’s Minhyung who made him stay. Minhyung and his shy smile, Minhyung and adorable laugh, Minhyung and the pinkening of his cheeks whenever Yukhei was being particularly cheesy.

Minhyung. Mark Lee. Minhyung. It doesn’t matter anymore. He’s still the same boy who Xuxi found piss-drunk, weeping his soul out, and he took home. He’s still the same boy who ran away from his problems, seeking Xuxi’s hands to keep him safe. He needs him, still, after all this time, even after Xuxi left him alone without as much as a goodbye.

And Xuxi. Yukhei. Xuxi. Fuck, he doesn’t care whoever he is. He is Yukhei who is also Xuxi who is also Lucas and all three of them love Minhyung all the same. They will talk about it later, they will talk properly about it, about their past, about their lies, about everything.

They will, later, but for now, all they want to do is find each other again. To learn each other again. To finish that song they had left incomplete and put a name on it. Put a name on them .

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

Minhyung smiles. A brilliant rush of blue. Waves gleam like shooting stars. The tide turns, the ocean opens up, calling, inviting. Yukhei departs, leaves the shore, bare feet crusted with sand. Soon, the azure will wash them away from him, clean, so Yukhei can belong only to them. In them, their enigmatic cradle that belies as much life as there is dark.

And Yukhei will love them all the same, Minhyung’s light, Minhyung’s dark, just like Minhyung had come to love him. All of him, his wreck and ruins. His disaster and past. His heartaches and demons. The ghost of a distant gaze that even until now is still refusing to leave him.

“For finding me.”

To them, he prays that the day when he can eventually say goodbye will come.

To Minhyung, to the fights they’ve given up, to the new ones they’re going to face to love each other properly, he says welcome .

“I’ll find you,” a promise. A prayer. “Always.”

:::

It’s kind of stupid, if not funny.

The only reason Xuxi was staying in Korea was for a short term working Visa he had. It only gave him total of 90 days, nothing more and nothing less. Mark learns that Xuxi has been working as model since high school; he didn’t continue to university immediately despite wanting to for a year project for a brand he’s contracted as the face of, and he’s in Korea for that reason.

That’s when he met Mark. At first, just like Mark, he didn’t mean it to be regular thing.

He tried to fool himself to think that between them there’s nothing.

And just like Mark, he failed. Miserably.

Still, Xuxi decided to stay, even though he knew he and Mark were just living on borrowed time. Even though he knew Mark was never actually in love with him, was just using him to get by a difficult phase in his life.

( “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Minhyung. You and I both.”)

He would have told Mark, but he wasn’t sure he had any right too. He thought he’s disposable, thought that Mark wouldn’t miss him. Told himself every night that he had no obligation to tell Mark, because he is nobody to Mark, just like Mark is nobody to him.

Xuxi tells him it doesn’t come out of nothing, his secrecy, his insecurity; they’re all the product of his family circumstances; his mother’s suicide, Xuxi’s guilt because he thought his mother’s death was because she couldn’t stand looking at Xuxi who reminded her too much of his jerk of a father.

“I spent my entire life thinking that I had killed my mother. She took her own life because she couldn't bear living with me, living with her own son who reminded me of the man she had loved, with her entire life but she couldn't keep.”

“That shouldn't be-”

“How am I supposed to know when nobody told me otherwise? She. In her last days, she never looked at me. And people said I looked like him. A lot. I just, pieces them together. The puzzles fit. I didn't know.”

“I'm sorry. “ Another apology, a mistake he didn't owe but hope he did so he could redo them, so he could repent them. And because he understands how that feels; trapped in your own self-loathing, finding no way out, for he doesn’t think he’s someone worth saving.

“I never feel like I’m worth it, I never feel like I could ever amount to anything. After what I've done, with this blood on my hands.”

“You're not-”

“You know,” he says, and Mark finds himself looking into Xuxi’s eyes. Small, just a boy who’s lost, begging to be found as he bleeds, as his demons terrorised him in his sleep. “You know how it feels to live with this, this...

Mark knows it all too well, the guilt, intimate and familiar. But he had Xuxi, Xuxi who took him in, his bastion. His place to come back to, the place that kept him safe no matter how broken and dirty he is.

He had Xuxi, but Xuxi, Xuxi never had anyone to share his pain.

“I'm sorry.”

The brunette says it’s okay and Mark should stop apologizing, referencing the conversation they had before they knew each other. He tells Mark about the reasons why he had to leave, the fight he had with his coworker because, “he called you,” Xuxi practically spits out the words, his expression all wrong and horrible, like he’d rather die than say it. “Boy- rude, fucking rude thing, that piece of garbage.”

“Still, you shouldn’t have-”

“But he-”

“And look what it cost you,” Mark sighs, reprimanding.

“You,” he moans, immediately looking apologetic, like a puppy caught in the act; ears all folded, tail tucked. “I’m sorry.”

Cute. His, fuck , this is what they’ve become, huh; boyfriends . Sweet. Adorable. He’s been spending his whole life feeling guilty over something he’s not responsible for, and Mark wants to change that. He wants to stop that. “Just don’t do it again.”

A peck on the lips, a smile tickled out. Warm and beautiful, brilliant like the sun. “Okay, I will, I will be good.” What would Mark do to keep this shine everlasting and eternal? Anything. He knows he’d do anything. He had lost this man once, now that he has him back, he’d rather die before losing him again.

He would, because now he knows how much, how long Xuxi had been bruised, broken injured, left with nothing and nobody but himself to patch himself up. But he had been young, so young, and his hands weren’t enough to close the abyss of his wounds. But now he has Mark, Minhyung , whoever Xuxi wants him to be, and Mark swears, vows, he’d even carve out an oath along the 206 bones that composed his body, that he’d do everything he could to keep Xuxi, safe, by his side, hurt but healed.

No more lies. No more pretending. Just honesty. And when Xuxi asks him, smiling mellow blue like a garden in  mid-winter, “was I even?”

“I’m so-” No more apology, no more avoidance; just honesty. “I was. You were. I didn’t mean to.” You were everything to me.

Xuxi heard him, of course. Xuxi always does. He’s here to listen, unspoken words and practiced lies. Here under his - Mark’s, their blanket, he keeps all of them, embraces him in his arms like he’s embracing Mark with his love. With selfless forgiveness.

He’s here now with tourist visa, a vacation. He has runways to walk and photoshoots schedule under his name, contracts with huge fashion houses and the first face for New York fashion week. They’re all coming in a week, so they only have, at most, seven days left at their disposal. They’re going to be separated again, so Mark decided he’s going to make it worthwhile.

He is going to tell him everything, things he didn’t want to admit or acknowledge. Words he’d always weaved in his mind as he waited for Xuxi’s return or just any chance to see him again. Things that are always easier to say without Xuxi around.

Mark tells him then, about Taeyong, about Jaehyun, about Donghyuck. About things he didn’t mean to say or happen, but he was young and foolish, the dice rolled anyway, and Mark’s left with the mess and heart bleeding blue, wounds smarting black.

But he’s okay, he’s faring better than he thought he would, even though the cold, cruel hands of regret tried to rein him into their womb of darkness and despair. He tells Xuxi it’s because he’s there. Because Xuxi was there, like hero whose heart always beckoned to help. Or just a boy with heart too pure, too kind, and Mark was the battered, wounded animal he found dying in a random alleyway.

It’s Xuxi who kept his ground. Xuxi who set his frozen heart on fire again. Xuxi who taught him, of things, of compassion, of vindication. Of love and having enough to learn how to be brave again. Even though Mark failed to gather enough before Xuxi was gone from his life, at least now he had it in him. Courage, bountiful,  more than enough to cherish everything; his sins, his mistakes. The wounds, the many blades. He takes them all, thanks to everything Xuxi had taught him.

“But I didn’t,” Xuxi exhales, large eyes searching, voyagers observing stars in amazement. “I didn’t do anything. Didn’t do,”

“You do,” Mark breathes, the word into his lungs, the feeling into his heart. He takes Xuxi’s hand, kisses it, rests it right on top of his beating heart so Xuxi can hear it. In time. Real. Here. “You trust me, my lies, my truth. You love me, Xuxi. And I love you, I love you. Even if you had to leave after this, back to your country. I love you, I will love you still, and nothing can ever change that.”

The future is not certain, he knows that. The only thing exact is the cadenza of time. And Mark fears, so many things, like change, like end. But he got Xuxi now, right here, beside him. He got him and he can proudly say come what may, for he’ll take them all. The way Xuxi had taken his black and his white. Only then, he can be stronger.

Only then, he can be someone he’s proud of, with all the scar and fault that tell a story of one. A human, only a human so meek, so small, who struggles to set his life right.

He and Xuxi are not perfect, far from it. But it’s okay, it’s okay now. They got each other. Even if they break, they can be fixed. Even if they’re lost, they can be found.

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

Mark smiles. He pushes everything away, his barriers, his lies, the fear castrating his mind. “For finding me.”

To them, he says goodbye. To Xuxi, to newly rising sun inside of them, he says welcome. “I’ll find you,” a promise. A prayer. “Always.”

:::

They spend the next seven days (they refused to call it remaining because remaining means it’s gonna be exhausted one day, and they stubbornly believe that they still have many more days to spend together) practically holed in their room.

They only leave to greet the landlord, to buy groceries, too much cheese and milk because Xuxi loves them rich, and Mark loves what Xuxi does. They cook a lot, together, probably nutritionally imbalanced because Mark makes sure they consumed more MSG and cheese, and processed meat than vegetables and vitamins.

According to Xuxi, that’s the whole point. “I’m not kidding when I said I’m gonna make you gain 5 kilos back, you’re too skinny, Minhyung. You used to be,” he runs his eyes up and down Mark’s body - topless , because it somehow become a tradition for them to cook nude save for their boxers or pants. “Thicker.”

Xuxi didn’t even beat around the bush, said he missed Mark’s body so much and if possible, he’d love to look at it every day until his departure.

He also threw in, “besides, your body changed so much. I want to remember it, everything, all of you. I don’t wanna miss a thing,” and that made Mark melt into a pathetic puddle of goo, metaphorically. Physically, he’s melting in Xuxi’s arms, his boyfriend worshipping every inch of his body with that cheesy mouth of his, Mark’s name a fervent prayer on his lips.

His boyfriend . Mark’s too embarrassed to say it the first time, needing Xuxi to coax the word out of his mouth with convincing kisses and equally persuasive, naughty hands slipping somewhere down under.

Now, he can say it easily, not without the heavy blush, and he swears he’s as red as cherry when he has to introduce Xuxi to his friends.

Donghyuck and the ensemble. Jeno actually looks murderously at Xuxi, eyeing him from head to the toe in a way that reminds Mark of the stepmother in drama assessing the poor, female protagonist. Later, Jeno will text him that he did that because he’s

jealous because guy is built like a brick, and he spoke Chinese with Renjun. And his n o s e. Is that even a nose?

But he looks like he’ll fall first before taking his eyes away from you, and Renjun doesn’t like someone too tall. Hard to kiss. So I’m fine.

Isn’t it hard? Kissing him?

‘M not that short. Jerk. thank you

But that’s later for the night, and now during the day, Mark takes Xuxi to meet his friends. Their last hang out before the next semester starts. Nothing fancy, just lunch and randomly hitting the game center. Or karaoke, depending on their mood later.

Chenle has taken a quick liking toward Xuxi, laughing at everything he says and does. Jisung looks at him with quiet admiration, startled with his friendliness at first; but then Xuxi realized how jumpy Jisung could be, respectfully gives him space, and that easily won Jisung’s heart.

Jaemin is Jaemin, and warming up to new people isn’t difficult for him. Renjun and Xuxi talk less than he expected, with them being Chinese speaker and all. Xuxi talks more with Chenle, and of course, Mark. Then there’s Donghyuck whom he talks to as well, more because Donghyuck keeps firing questions at him than because he wanted to talk at all.

It’s not that Donghyuck’s being hostile, but perhaps Mark got that impression because he knows Donghyuck well enough to tell his curiosity and his jabs apart.

Xuxi doesn’t know Donghyuck, apart from the fact that Donghyuck and he are the best of friends, or had been until Mark had started fooling around with his brother. Things got awkward between them, but it didn’t last long, because Donghyuck has the purest of hearts - next to Xuxi, of course - and he understands Mark like he can see inside his head.

(Mark also told Xuxi that one time behind the cabin. Xuxi had kissed him, rough, “tell me how did he touch you?”

“Just touch me how you want to.”

Xuxi, well, touched him exactly how he wanted it, leaving Mark sore the next day.)

Xuxi takes all Donghyuck’s question in stride, answering him with confidence and a charming smile that had Mark falling for him all over again.

By the end of the interrogation, Donghyuck is looking approving, satisfied. Mark almost thinks he’s acting like Mark’s father, but saves the comment for himself in fear that Donghyuck will tease him with some stupid stories from their childhood.

After lunch, the go straight to karaoke because Jeno and Xuxi have bonded over Justin Bieber, and it’s suddenly concluded that they’re going to karaoke for Justin Bieber because Jeno and Xuxi won’t stop talking about him.

Anyways, Justin Bieber . Mark and Renjun are helpless in the face of their boyfriends’ childlike enthusiasm. The others tag along without protest; Donghyuck and Chenle are in choir, Jaemin just wants to have fun, and Jisung is the type who looks unwilling at first but has the most invested by the end.

Sometime later, maybe thirteen minutes had passed, it’s Jaemin’s first time singing, Donghyuck sits close to Mark. He flicks his gaze to Xuxi, then whispers in Mark’s ear.

Like a blessing. Like relief. Like gratitude and good will. “He’s a keeper.”

Mark looks at his oblivious boyfriend then back to his best friend. His eyes are maybe a little bit teary, his voice tight with choking gratitude. “He is.”

Donghyuck smiles; boyish, young, innocent. They’re taken back to the first day they met, Mark with a red nose and Donghyuck with a bandaid on his.

That day, Mark never knew the boy was going to be one of the most important people in his life. Mark didn’t know that there would be so much between them; bad and good. Black and white. Understanding and misunderstanding. Fights and make ups.

But they lasted through it all, not unschated but healed. Today, Mark knows, with no doubt, that Donghyuck is important, someone he doesn’t want to live without, and he will always be. Irreplaceable.

:::

Tomorrow’s the last day.

Mark’s gonna see him off at the airport, swears he’s going to give him the tightest hug before letting him go. Maybe even a kiss when nobody’s looking, or even with people looking. Fuck people, they’re just too much in love, it’s within their right to express it to each other.

Today, they spend it talking. Imagining things. The future. Long distance relationships are difficult, Mark isn’t one hundred percent positive, but nothing in the world is, and he loves Xuxi too much to stop without trying.

He survived a year without nothing from Xuxi, no proper goodbye, no explanation. This time, they’ll have skype call, Xuxi registered his new number and kakao id, and dozen other social media accounts for them to keep in contact with each other.

Mark finds out that Xuxi uses his modeling name, Lucas for his social media accounts and judging from the number of his followers, he has quite a reputation for himself. Well, considering he was in Korea to work for a brand that contracted him as their representative face, Mark shouldn’t be surprised that his boyfriend is famous.

It’s actually crazy, Mark Lee - Lee Minhyung - has a fucking model for a boyfriend, Donghyuck’s gonna flip his shit once Mark tells him.

Xuxi’s instagram feed is full with either photos of his brothers, his handsome selcas, or behind the scene of his modeling gigs. It got no theme whatsoever, not curated, but it’s cute, it’s instant, it’s real. He’s thankful that Xuxi’s agency isn’t that strict in managing their talents’ social media, if not, he wouldn’t be able to see Xuxi making goofy faces while his brother was smearing cream all over his face. Mark spends a whole 10 minutes scrolling down his endless feed. Xuxi secretly takes a picture of him doing that, uploads it right away and captions it;

sweetest boy on the planet

“That’s fucking cheesy,” Mark sputters, cheeks bright red. The ruby on his ears; got them pierced two days ago with Xuxi holding his hand tight.

“Said the sweetest boy on the planet,” he sing songs, snapping another picture, unbothered.

“Fuck you, I’m not wearing anything right now.” Mark scrambles down under the blanket. “Wouldn’t your agency, your uncle, be mad?”

“This, actually, is for my uncle.” The notification on his phone dings. Xuxi uploaded yet another new picture, the one he just took. Sugar, my whole world. I love you so much. “And, no, they don’t care. Models with boyfriends is a huge thing right now. It’s plus point for me.”

“Jerk.”

The taller boy laughs, drops his phone on the bedside table, “it’s true. I love you so much.” He wrenches the blanket off Mark’s body with glee, finding him curled up with his phone clutched in his hand, looking at Xuxi like he’s the first sun after a long storm. “Shit. Minhyung, you are so-”

He doesn’t continue, just starts attacking him with sweet nothings and playful kisses, eventually reducing Mark into a babbling mess as everything got less innocent and more steamy. Eager, hungry hands included.

They have sex - make love - a lot, too. No stranger to this, that’s what they’d been doing before Xuxi bailed out from Mark’s life. It feels normal, it feels like falling back into a routine. They do it to seamlessly, but this time, there’s more intent than despair. This time, there’s more submission than running away.

Xuxi stays, now, not to leave but to go. Tomorrow, they’re not going to see each other, again. For days, days that will pass a hundred and some more until they can meet again.

Mark will sleep to those days, Mark had sleep for days without Xuxi. But now, it’s different. Now, if he’s gonna fall asleep crying for him, it is not because he fears losing him. Now, if he’s gonna fall asleep crying for him, it’s only because he loves him, he’s grateful to have him back into his life, and he cannot wait to see him again.

Now, any tears that stain his pillow sheets, any tears that stain his salty cheeks, they’re of happiness. Brilliant blue, like Xuxi, his summer in the spring, and everything he is.

:::

Hi, Mark. Long time no see. This is Taeyong

I heard about you and Huang Xuxi? from Donghyuck

I just wanna say congratulations

I really hope you can be happy with him, truly. From the bottom of my heart

Mark, I love you. Despite everything, I love you. Maybe not as what you wanted me to, but I love you. You’re important to me. I just want you to be happy. I hope that this time you can be happy, with someone who truly loves you and deserve you

I’m sure there are so many things that we need to talk about. About us. That day. Everything. I hope the day where we can talk about it with less heavy hearts will eventually come

for now, please be happy, Mark. Forgive yourself. I forgive you. You deserve it. You never meant to do me any harm, but things happened, people make mistakes, and so do I

so please, be happy, not for anyone else, but yourself. For Mark

goodbye

:::

Taeyong-hyung, I love you, too. Thank you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Thank you. I will be happy, I promise. So, please be happy, too. With Jaehyun-hyung, with yourself. Thank you.

till we meet again

:::

The sea calls for people, they say. It calls come home , they said. Lorelei's song. It’s dark and lonely under, and it’s void and empty down further.

But humans, even in a crowd, can feel as much; lonely, empty. Taeyong used to feel like that, used to believe it, even if there were warm bodies to keep him company.

“What are you looking at?” Jaehyun asks, his arms slipping to wrap around Taeyong’s waist. His chin resting on his shoulder. “The sea?”

Taeyong stares ahead. The sea. Mediterranean sea. They’re a long way from home, just the two of them. Not alone. Never alone. Not like the sea. The poor, beautiful lonely sea. “Mark replied to me.”

He feels Jaehyun tense behind him, only for a split second. He relaxes, presses a kiss to the side of Taeyong’s face. Consoling, keeping his own composure, voice a little tight. The boy has a strong front but can’t help but  be pathetically honest when it comes to Taeyong. “What did he say?”

“That I should be happy. With you.”

Taeyong’s hands fall on top of Jaehyun’s, squeezing. Keeping him, close and dear. Trembling with fear of letting go. He can’t help it; he’s too used to losing things. “Are you now, Hyung?”

He thinks so. He wants to believe so. He wants it to be so. He says, “yeah.”

He’s lost, but like things that are  thrown into water only for the waves to wash it back ashore, he will be found.

“I’m happy.”