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it always leads to you

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It was like clockwork, every time Mark would come back home to Illinois.

Mark doesn’t know how, it’s not like he ever tells him in advance, but somehow Johnny always knows  when he’s back. Somehow, Mark always has a text on his phone minutes upon him stepping into his house, asking, come over tonight?.

Mark likes to think that one day he’d be able to say no, but, he’s still not that strong.

Which leads them back to here.

“Come on babe,” Johnny murmurs into the skin of Mark’s neck, “Let go.”

Mark gasps, eyes fluttering open as he comes. Outside Johnny’s window, snow is falling in flurries, and they blur in his vision as Mark’s orgasm washes over him. He shudders, head falling forward.

Mark’s orgasm buzzes over his skin like a live-wire, his body slumped against Johnny as he feels Johnny come inside him with a soft grunt, teeth biting into his shoulder. He’s probably leaving a mark, but Mark doesn’t try to stop him. Instead, he runs his hands over the small of Johnny’s back, tracing the knobs of his spine as both of them come down. The room is quiet, and all Mark can focus on is Johnny’s breathing.

Johnny’s sheets are red, a rich burgundy crumpled around them. Mark notices, because last time he was here they were a soft grey. It’s how he always remembers Johnny in his head, naked and strewn out against the grey sheets, Mark looming over him trying to catalog every minuscule detail of him before he left again.

Mark feels his breath hitch and he tramples it down, down,down. There are no more feelings involved in this. There can’t be, both of them know that. It’s just sex, just when Mark’s in town. Johnny is only Mark’s for the night.

Johnny eases them both back onto the bed, Mark turning over on his back so they’re both staring at the ceiling. Shadows flicker along the wall, the warm glow of Christmas lights reflecting off the ornaments on Johnny’s tree.

Mark turns his head to look at Johnny. His eyes are closed and Mark watches the slow rise and fall of his chest, stares at the faint sheen of sweat on his skin. He wants to trace the lines of his body with his hands, feel Johnny’s heartbeat against his palm. It always beat a bit faster than Mark’s. They’d lay together with their fingers on each other’s pulse, trying to count out the beats together.

The low lighting softens him, makes Mark’s heart clench. Mark blinks and it’s like it’s Johnny in high school again, the two of them sneaking off to Johnny’s room together, dimming the lights in his room so that his parents didn’t catch them.

He sits up, the rustling of sheets loud in the steady quiet of Johnny’s room. Mark feels like he broken some sort of spell, because Johnny’s opening his eyes and he’s looking at him like — 

Mark can’t categorize this look, not if he wants to keep it together. There are too many emotions swimming in it; Johnny always lays himself bare after sex, before his own mind can catch up with the situation they're in. Mark shuts himself off, averting Johnny’s gaze to pick at the sheets in front of him instead. They’re soft. Grounding.

“You know, I was going to see Yuta tomo—” Johnny starts, Mark interrupting him with a soft, “Johnny, don’t.”

Mark can see the flicker in his eyes, even if his face betrays nothing. No matter how much time passes, he can read every emotion on Johnny like an open book. Every subtle movement of his eyebrows, every dip of his mouth. Mark knows Johnny better than anyone.

He knows it’s not good for them to see each other outside of this. Fuck, even this isn’t good for them. He may end up in Johnny’s bed, but he just — he can’t end up in Johnny’s life again, they’ve tried that before and he doesn’t like to think about it. At least this way, the pain lingers...less, doesn’t sit in the back of Mark’s mind every waking second.

Johnny sighs, knowing when to give up. They sit there in silence, until Johnny finally gets out of bed, cleans them both up, hands ever so gentle on Mark. He shivers as Johnny runs over his body with the damp towel, the room cold now without Johnny’s body heat surrounding him. 

Mark stays the night, because he always does, because it’s the only thing he can still give to Johnny. Johnny’s bed feels more like home sometimes than his bed at his parent's house does, than even his bed at home back in LA does.

In the morning, Johnny drives him home. The snow is a bright white, and it’s early enough that it feels barely disturbed yet. Mark can see his breath in the air, feel the chill run through his bones as they walk out to Johnny’s car.  

It’s quiet. The space in the car feels like not enough and endless at the same time. A chasm neither of them know how to pass. They don’t make a move to speak to each other, to break through the empty silence of the car as Johnny takes the route he knows by heart back to Mark’s parent's house.

Johnny still drives the car that he did when he first got his license at 16, a gift from his parents that feels the same 10 years later. If Mark closes his eyes, it’s almost like they’re in high school again, Johnny driving Mark around everywhere because Mark was too scared to learn to drive himself, the two of them arguing over what CD to play.

Mark chews on his bottom lip as he looks out the window, watches the sun glint off of the icy tree branches that whip past them. Johnny’s taking the long way, Mark knows it, but neither of them brings it up. He knows Johnny’s arm is resting on the armrest, knows if he wanted to he could take it in his, wrap their cold palms together, and their fingers would intertwine just right.

Mark folds his hands in his lap instead.

Johnny pulls into Mark’s driveway, and they both sit staring at the garage door until Mark finally takes a deep breath in, steadying himself and unbuckling his seatbelt. Johnny doesn’t make any move to look at him. 

Mark almost reaches his hand out but holds himself back, instead offering a low, “bye, Johnny,” as he steps out of his car. He doesn’t wait for Johnny’s reply.

He feels Johnny’s eyes on him as he leaves, but he doesn’t turn back to look at him. He can’t see the hurt in Johnny’s eyes, can’t let him see the same hurt reflected in his own. Neither of them needs that.

Johnny would never ask him to stay, and Mark doesn’t know what he would say if he did.

No matter how much Johnny makes Mark want to stay, he can’t, and they both know that. This will always end with Mark flying back to LA, and the two of them trying to pretend the other doesn’t exist until Mark comes back home. Comes back to Johnny. Ends up back in his bed.

It’s better this way.

Mark goes home, spends Christmas with his family, tries to not think about the phantom ache of Johnny’s presence — the press of his lips against his own, their hands tangled together as Mark moaned into his skin, his body covering his completely. His parents don’t ask, and Mark wouldn’t be able to answer them if they did. Johnny is here, and Mark isn’t, and that’s all it comes back to.

Like clockwork, he leaves again, the lingering imprint of Johnny’s teeth on the back of his shoulder already starting to fade.