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Mark’s sluggish, clouded brain tripped into consciousness at the exact moment that same brain realized he was actively spooning someone as the Big Spoon. This was notable for the sole reason that Mark was almost never the big spoon, so he allowed himself to sink into the feeling, eyes closed, heart thumping in his chest. 

It was kind of nice being the big spoon. No heavy arm around his middle. If he had to pee he could just get right up without worrying about needing to extricate himself from under the other person’s arms and traipse to the bathroom. Nice!

He inhaled the muted, day-old scent of woodsy spices and sighed. Whoever he was in bed with smelled like the inside of an alpine resort. Their skin was soft under his touch.

Mark’s eyes flew open, now finally connecting the dots: he was in bed with someone.

Mark’s mind began to pick up speed, thoughts crashing around like confused bumper cars. Where was he? How’d he get here last night, after the party? Did they fuck?

The stranger’s bare back faced him. The knobs of his spine reminded Mark of pearls. Mark slid the covers down and caught the edges of a black tattoo—a butterfly—on this person’s upper arm. Mark squinted at it. Did he know that tattoo?

He slid the covers down further. Where there should have been the elastic band of boxers or briefs, there was nothing. So the dude he was in bed with was naked. Yet Mark was somehow still wearing his boxers.

Okay, so maybe they hadn’t fucked. But then why was the guy naked? Maybe they had, and Mark had put on his boxers after? He checked the insides of his thighs. No dried cum anywhere on his person. He looked the other guy over (and admired the thickness of his thighs, wow) and noted the same. 

Maybe he’d sucked him off? Mark stuck out his tongue as far as it would go. Of course, he couldn’t really see the flat end of it, but he tasted the air and concluded that his mouth just sort of had the morning-breath kind of funk to it and not the “I-swallowed-a-dick-last-night” kind of funk to it. Also, it was dry as a desert.

The guy shivered and curled up as he reached for the displaced covers with a whine. “Aspirin. Now,” he said in a vaguely familiar voice.

“Shit,” Mark gasped. “Ten?”

“Mark,” Ten complained. “Aspirin now. Now, aspirin.”

“Why am I in bed with you?” Mark asked loudly. Too loudly, even for his own ears, which were struggling to process sound after last night. His head was pounding like a herd of elephants was stampeding over his brain. He didn’t notice before because his brain hadn’t been really working , but now that it was… 

Ouch. More quietly, he hissed, “Why are you naked?!”

“I sleep in the nude,” Ten mumbled.

“Uh, with people who aren’t your boyfriend?!” Mark’s voice was climbing in pitch as panic finally settled over his being like a thick, suffocating blanket. He was in bed with his ex’s boyfriend. He was in bed with Johnny’s boyfriend. 

“Maaaark,” Ten whined again, drawing out the vowel sound in his name. He didn’t seem to get why this was a big deal, but it was a big deal. This was a big deal! Mark couldn’t go around waking up naked with the current boyfriend of the man who had been his boyfriend until Mark told he couldn’t move in with. What was next? Mark moving in with them?!

“I have to go,” Mark blurted out like he’d vomited the words. “I—I just have to go.”

“No, don’t—“

But Mark was already moving. He was gathering his clothes from the floor. He was finding his wallet and his phone. He was tugging his hoodie on and fumbling with the door. Someone was in the kitchen, making coffee.

“I took out some aspirin,” the stranger said, gesturing to the kitchen counter.

“Cool. Bye,” Mark said. He was careful not to let the front door slam on his way out.

 

.

 

SCENE: WHAT MARK REMEMBERS FROM LAST NIGHT

SETTING: A House Party that is already in full swing. Students spill out onto the front yard. Music plays loudly. There is an inflatable pool in the kitchen full of Punch. MARK, film major, enters the house with JENO, dance education major and MARK’s roommate, and JAEMIN, undecided and unbothered, and they are immediately set upon by DONGHYUCK, MARK’s best friend, drama major.

MARK:
Yo, Hyuck. Oh my god, are you drunk already?

DONGHYUCK:
(To the tune of the Canadian national anthem) Canada! O, Canada!

MARK:
Where’s Renjun? Isn’t he supposed to help you keep track of the number of shots you’re taking?

DONGHYUCK:
You go to the hospital with alcohol poisoning one time and no one can ever let it go.

JAEMIN:
I mean, wasn’t it last week?

DONGHYUCK:
You know, maybe you have a point. (Loudly) Renjun?

RENJUN, art history major, appears, flushed and slightly ruffled, happy. The group greets each other with affectionate hugs before moving deeper into the house, into the living room. The large L-shaped couch is crowded, and people line the walls or dance in small groups. DONGHYUCK procures shots for the group, and they all take one together.

DONGHYUCK:
So, Johnny’s supposed to be here tonight.

MARK:
Dude, if you’re just going to talk about Johnny, I’m leaving.

DONGHYUCK:
Marcus! No! I am just giving you time to prepare. You introverts need it, don’t you? Processing time.

RENJUN:
You’re the one who told Johnny about the party.

DONGHYUCK:
Yeah, and now I’m telling Mark so Mark can’t go Victorian England on us and faint at the sight of Johnny.

MARK:
I wouldn’t faint!

JENO:
I’d catch you.

MARK:
I wouldn’t faint! We still have a class together, you know? We see each other once a week.

DONGHYUCK:
Last week you told him you couldn’t hang out with him after class because you had diarrhea.

MARK:
And was I lying?

DONGHYUCK:
It’s just sad.

MARK:
Whose friend are you, anyway?

DONGHYUCK:
This isn’t about that, Marcus. Besides, you both agreed to stay friends.

They take another shot together. MARK is a lightweight and leaves the group to find water in the kitchen. While there, he also grabs a 6-pack of canned beers from the cooler for his friends. When he rises, he comes face to face with JOHNNY, film major, tall and gorgeous and smiling, dressed in a slightly oversized sweater and dark jeans.

JOHNNY:
Hey, man.

MARK:
Uh, fuck. I mean. Hey, Johnny.

JOHNNY:
Can I get one of those?

MARK:
They’re for my friends.

JOHNNY:
Oh.

MARK:
My other friends, I mean. In the living room. Here, you can have this one.

MARK struggles to separate a single beer from the plastic rings. Overcompensates. The can flies off the ring and to the floor. JOHNNY laughs, picking it up.

JOHNNY:
Thanks. I’ll give it to Ten. It’ll be hilarious.

MARK:
Ten?

JOHNNY:
Yeah. He just went to the bathroom, I think. He’ll be right back. Actually, I wanted to introduce the two of you.

MARK:
I think I should get back, though. Hyuck and the others are waiting for me.

JOHNNY:
Aw, no sweat. I’ll come find you in a bit.

MARK:
Sure.

MARK wanders back to the living room, grabbing a shot from a tray of them along the way and taking one himself. When he reaches his friends, they descend on the beers like vultures. 

More people join the party. The crowd gets messier and rowdier. MARK, who has lost track of how many drinks he’s had, is two-stepping with JAEMIN and JENO to the tune of Ice, Ice Baby when JOHNNY approaches, unnoticed, with TEN, transfer student, dance education major, beside him. TEN is wearing a huge sweater and shiny leggings.

JOHNNY:
Mark! I finally found you!

MARK:
What? Oh, heyyyyy

JOHNNY:
This is Ten. My date. My person. My dude. 

TEN:
I think he gets it.

JOHNNY:
I wanted you both to meet.

MARK:
You’re so small!

TEN:
Thank you.

MARK:
I bet Johnny can bench press you.

TEN:
Oh, he can.

JENO:
Ten! You’re here with Johnny?

TEN:
I’m here with Johnny.

JENO:
Jaemin, this is Ten! I told you about him. He’s in my ballet class and he’s so good. Sometimes maybe too good?

JAEMIN:
Want me to kill him for you?

TEN:
I’d like to see you try.

JENO:
He’s all bark, no bite.

JAEMIN:
Sure.

JOHNNY:
Please don’t kill him. We’d have to get rid of the body and that would be really hard.

TEN:
Oh my god, I’m standing right here.

MARK:
I won’t let them kill you.

TEN:
Thank you. I had a good feeling about you.

MARK:
But you don’t even know me.

TEN:
Johnny talks about you all the time.

JOHNNY:
Not all the time.

MARK:
Right.

TEN:
Right.

JAEMIN:
Jeno, let’s go get another drink.

MARK:
I’ll come, too.

TEN:
Wait. Mark. I wanted to talk to you about something.

MARK:
Me?

TEN:
No. The other Mark.

MARK:
There is no other Mark.

TEN:
You, dumbass. Oh my god Johnny. You were right about him.

MARK grabs another drink and follows TEN outside to the backyard. There is an unfinished tire swing by a big tree. They go to it, sharing the tire like a bench.

TEN:
So, then. Can we talk about what’s going on with you and Johnny?

END SCENE.

 

.

 

“That’s seriously all you remember?” Renjun sighed harshly into the phone, his exasperation with Mark loud and clear. “You’re such a dumbass.”

“You didn’t see anything? Like, anything at all?” Mark shivered in the chill that accompanied the cool spring morning. He had run out of Ten’s apartment building and walked in the direction of ‘downhill’ for a few tree-lined blocks before coming onto a familiar main road lined with shops and cafes that trended toward the posher side of things and thought, of course, Ten lived in Shadyside!

Mark had gone into the first coffee shop he saw to pick up an overpriced latte for his long walk home. On the way, he’d called Renjun, hoping Renjun’s intuition and penchant for marathoning unsolved mystery documentaries might help him piece together the fragments coming back to him from last night. But Renjun, like Mark, was proving to be both hungover and very annoyed about it, making him slightly uncooperative.

“Mark, I wasn’t even with you when you guys met,” Renjun said. “Call Jeno-n-Jaemin or something.”

“Doesn’t Donghyuck remember anything?” Mark pressed. He felt his phone buzz against his ear, signaling a text, but he ignored it.

Renjun sighed again. “Hold on.”

Mark held on, phone pressed to his ear. He forgot to breathe while he waited, and he was huffing against the receiver by the time he reached Fifth Avenue, a slight uphill climb. “Renjun?”

“He says you didn’t leave with Ten. You left with Johnny and Ten.”

Mark tripped over a raised stone on the sidewalk, some of his latte spilling out of the top of the cup. “Shit! What? Aw, napkins.” 

“Weird reaction, but okay. Bye, Mark.”

“Does he remember anything else—?”

Dial tone. 

Mark turned the face of his phone over to see the call had ended. He had a text message. He opened it.

 

Johnny:
Hey where’d u go? Kun’s making breakfast

 

.

 

SCENE: WHAT MARK REMEMBERS FROM LAST NIGHT (revision)

MARK wanders back to the living room, grabbing a shot two shots from a tray of them along the way and taking one both himself. When he reaches his friends, they descend on the beers like vultures. 

More people join the party. The crowd gets messier and rowdier. MARK, who has lost track of how many drinks he’s had, is two-stepping with JAEMIN and JENO to the tune of Ice, Ice Baby Under Pressure when JOHNNY approaches, unnoticed, with TEN, transfer student, dance education major, beside him. TEN is wearing a huge sweater that MARK knows is JOHNNY'S and shiny leggings.

JOHNNY:
Mark! I finally found you!

MARK:
What? Oh, heyyyyy

JOHNNY:
This is Ten. My date. My person. My dude. 

TEN:
I think he gets it.

JOHNNY:
I wanted you both to meet.

MARK:
You’re so small!

TEN:
Thank you.

MARK:
I bet Johnny can bench press you.

TEN:
Oh, he can.

JENO:
Ten! You’re here with Johnny?

TEN:
I’m here with Johnny.

JENO:
Jaemin, this is Ten! I told you about him. He’s in my ballet class and he’s so good. Sometimes maybe too good?

JAEMIN:
Want me to kill him for you?

TEN:
I’d like to see you try.

JENO:
He’s all bark, no bite.

JAEMIN:
Sure.

JOHNNY:
Please don’t kill him. We’d have to get rid of the body and that would be really hard.

TEN:
Oh my god, I’m standing right here.

MARK:
I won’t let them kill you.

TEN:
Thank you. I had a good feeling about you.

MARK:
But you don’t even know me.

TEN:
Johnny talks about you all the time.

JOHNNY:
Not all the time. Not all the time. Just occasionally. Like a normal amount. Because we’re still friends.

MARK:
Right.

TEN:
Right.

JAEMIN:
Jeno, let’s go get another drink.

MARK:
I’ll come, too.

TEN:
Wait. Mark. I We wanted to talk to you about something.

MARK:
Me?

TEN:
No. The other Mark.

MARK:
There is no other Mark.

TEN:
You, dumbass. Oh my god Johnny. You were right about him.

MARK grabs another drink and follows TEN and JOHNNY outside to the backyard. There is an unfinished tire swing by a big tree. They go to it, sharing the tire like a bench. MARK, weaving, goes to it and sits. TEN sits beside him, while JOHNNY stands to the side, fidgeting.

TEN:
Johnny, sit down. You’re making him nervous.

MARK:
I’m not nervous. Why would I be nervous? Should I be nervous?

TEN:
Uh oh. You’re like pretty fucking drunk aren’t you? Maybe we should do this when you’re sober.

MARK:
Do what? Oh, so this is like a serious talk? Johnny, is this about me ditching you last week for lunch? I told you. My stomach— 

JOHNNY:
This is not about lunch. Although you should really think about getting your stomach looked at by, like, a specialist. Since it’s been bothering you. Like a week before that you said—not that I’ve been keeping track, it’s just hard not to notice when it seems like you have a serious gastrointestinal issue—

TEN:
Johnny. Babe.

JOHNNY:
Right. Sorry. The point. Wait, we should do this when you’re sober.

MARK:
You dragged me out here to give me all the foreplay but no climax! Boo!

TEN:
He’s funny.

JOHNNY:
Told you you’d like him.

MARK:
You guys are dating right? Or eff-wording? Boyfriend-boyfriend stuff.

TEN:
Cute. We’re definitely eff-wording.

MARK:
I should go find my friends again.

JOHNNY:
Because your stomach is bothering you, right?

MARK:
No, because I don’t want to be here talking about you two eff-wording.

TEN:
He’s honest when he’s drunk.

JOHNNY:
He won’t remember any of this tomorrow.

MARK:
I will! I’m sober. Totally sober.

  TEN:
So, then. Can we talk about what’s going on with you and Johnny?

END SCENE.

 

.

 

By now, Mark had drunk most of his latte, and the distance he’d put between himself and Ten’s apartment was giving him the space he needed to decompress and think. Panic had rendered the blank spots in his memories of last as unfillable as bottomless pits, but now the night was starting to come back to him in pieces. 

He knew how he’d gotten to the party (riding with Jeno and Jaemin in Jaemin’s car), and he could remember the beginning of the party with his friends pretty clearly. After that was when things started to fall apart in his recollection. Disjointed scenes and snippets of unconnected conversations came to him as he mentally walked through the house again from memory. He recalled holding Donghyuck back from dunking his head in the inflatable pool full of punch (“It doesn’t say ‘no diving!’”), waiting in line for the bathroom and meeting this girl named Julie in front of him (“Who’s that guy you were with downstairs?”), dancing in the living room with Jeno and Jaemin (“ Please don’t do the worm. Please don’t. Oh God, he’s doing the worm.”).

The night seemed split into two complete parts: Before Meeting Ten, and After Meeting Ten. He struggled with the After Meeting Ten bits.

He remembered the conversation in the backyard and the tire they’d sat on, the way he’d played with the rough rubber under his fingers. He remembered how amazing Johnny looked with his hair probably two weeks past needing a trim, some wispy blond tendrils escaping the little low ponytail he’d put it in and framing his face. He remembered thinking Ten had the prettiest eyes he’d ever seen on a human being, and perhaps that was why Mark couldn’t remember anything past Ten asking him if they could talk about what was going on between him and Johnny.

He’d looked into those eyes and gotten sucked into their glittering depths. 

God, what happened after that? What did Mark say ? What did he do

Why hadn’t he gone home with Jeno and Jaemin? And why on earth would Jeno and Jaemin leave without him?

Mark paused at the end of the block, looked both ways, and then turned down the street because he knew there was a bagel shop down this way and he realized he was hungry. He wondered what Kun was making for breakfast back at Ten’s apartment, and then he wondered who Kun actually was. 

He should really text Johnny back. The text message left on read was burning a hole through his phone which was burning a hole through his pocket, so as he entered the bagel shop, he drew it out and reread Johnny’s words, hoping to decipher some hidden meaning behind them.

 

Johnny:
Hey where’d u go? Kun’s making breakfast

 

The tone Johnny had used was casual. Perhaps too casual? Maybe Johnny felt weird about Mark being there in the morning, too. Maybe Ten had pressured Johnny to reach out to him after he stumbled out of bed and ran away. Maybe something had happened between Mark and Ten last night that he couldn’t remember and Johnny was there so that they could all talk about it like functional adults, or something. 

But just last night Mark was trying to keep Donghyuck from upending himself in red alcohol punch in a kiddie pool so maybe they weren’t functional adults yet and this was why Mark was running away.

Mark was always running away.

 

.

 

SCENE: THE WORST THING MARK EVER SAID

SETTING: A coffee shop, mid-day. It is not too crowded, a pleasant hum of conversation and music in the air. JOHNNY and MARK sit at a table by the window, mugs half-empty, laptops open in front of them. JOHNNY’s bouncing knee is shaking the table.

MARK:
Sorry, but can you quit that? I’m just—really trying to concentrate and everything is distracting right now. 

JOHNNY:
Sure, yeah. Too much caffeine. I’m going to get another, you want?

MARK:
You’re not done with this one yet?

JOHNNY:
Oh, right.

JOHNNY continues to fidget. After JOHNNY’s knee knocks into the table for the third time, MARK pushes his laptop aside.

MARK:
Are you okay? It’s not just the coffee, is it?

JOHNNY:
I’ve just been sitting on this question all day.

MARK:
Your paper? How can I help?

JOHNNY:
Not my paper. Something I want to ask you.

MARK:
Uh.

JOHNNY:
But it can wait.

MARK:
No, it’s. Uh. Fine. What is it? You know we can talk about anything. Right?

JOHNNY:
It’s just that we’ve been together now for a couple of months and, like, half your things are at my place anyway and, well— 

JOHNNY pulls something out of his pocket. It is a key with a ribbon looped through the keyhole. He pushes it across the table toward MARK.

MARK:
You’re giving me a key?

JOHNNY:
I’m giving you—the whole thing? I know it’s fast, but I’m asking if you want to move in. If that’s what you want. I think it’d be good… 

MARK:
Wait—

JOHNNY:
You don’t have to say yes. You can think about it— 

MARK:
I’ve got—this paper is like half my grade and I have to work on it and I—I don’t know what to say—

JOHNNY:
Just think about it. I’ve got the space— 

MARK:
I can’t.

JOHNNY:
What?

MARK:
I can’t move in with you. I’ve got half a year left on my lease. I’m too busy to look for someone to sublet or take over! I’ve got work and school and, and, and—

JOHNNY:
Okay. Okay. It doesn’t have to be right away. We can think about it. It’s just an idea— 

MARK:
I don’t want to move in with you.

JOHNNY:
What, like, ever?

MARK:
I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this.

JOHNNY:
Oh. You’re being serious.

MARK:
I can’t talk about this right now.

JOHNNY:
I’m just asking you to think about it.

MARK:
I can’t. Moving in together is like, a lot.

JOHNNY:
It’s not like I’m asking you to marry me.

MARK:
Oh, god.

JOHNNY:
Is the idea of living together with someone you love—that I love—that weird? That disgusting to you? Mark, wait. Stop that—

MARK:
It’s not, it’s just me. I mean, how can we even know how much longer we’ll be together? It’s just—I really need to get this paper done and I don’t think I can do that here, Johnny. Sorry. I’ll—I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? We’re still on for tomorrow?

JOHNNY:
Are you joking?

MARK:
No. No, I’m not joking.

JOHNNY:
How much longer we’ll be together? How much longer do you think we’ll be together, Mark?

MARK:
That’s not what I meant.

JOHNNY:
Then what did you mean?

MARK:
It’s just a hypothetical, or whatever. Like, about relationships. And how long they last or don’t last. It’s not about us. It’s the concept, I think.

JOHNNY:
So you don’t think we’ll last.

MARK:
That’s not what I said.

JOHNNY:
It’s just what you meant.

MARK:
Johnny. Can we—Can we talk about this tomorrow? Please? I’m saying all the wrong things right now.

JOHNNY:
But are they what you think?

MARK:
Johnny.

JOHNNY:
Fine. I guess. I’ll see you tomorrow.

MARK gathers his things and leaves the cafe.  

END SCENE.

 

.

 

“Hey! Sorry, but if you’re still deciding, would you mind letting the customer behind you order first? Oh, wait. It's Carl.” 

Mark drew himself out of his reverie, stomach tight and chest hurting at the memory. He could still clearly picture the crestfallen look on Johnny’s face when Mark had refused the key. They had talked about it the next day, over a stack of pancakes and plate of waffles at their favorite diner in the Strip, and Mark had done his best to explain himself then: it wasn’t Johnny; it was Mark, and Mark was afraid of commitment because what if there was something or someone out there waiting for him and Mark never found them? And it wasn’t that Mark hoped for something better, because Johnny was amazing. It was just that Mark wanted something different, even if he wasn’t sure what that was yet.

And that had been the second worst thing Mark had ever said. Johnny had paused him then and there with a raised palm and said, “Then I better not keep you back from finding this different thing, huh?”

They had been friends before becoming friends-with-benefits before becoming two-people-dating-exclusively, so when a week later Johnny had reached out to bridge the growing divide between them and to repair the friendship they both missed, Mark had agreed.

Of course, he was quite bad at it, but Johnny was Johnny and didn’t give up. And maybe a couple of weeks into this tepid reconciliation, Mark realized he was still in sort-of-love with him. 

Really, it was hard not to love Johnny, and Mark loved easily.

The person behind the register was wearing a friendly smile on their face, but the tightness in the corners of her eyes was telling of just how close she was to snapping at the next complicated customer order. Mark knew the signs; he had worked at a fancy new Korean barbecue joint downtown all last summer. He eyed her nametag: Yuqi.

He said, “I’ll just get a bacon-egg-n-cheese on an everything bagel.”

“Toasted or not toasted?”

“Uh, not.”

“Turkey bacon or regular bacon?”

“Regular?”

“Cheddar, american, swiss, muenster, provolone—?”

“Cheddar, just cheddar. Thanks.”

“Do you want to add tomato or avocado for $1.99?”

Overwhelmed by all the choices and rapid-fire questions, Mark wheezed out in one breath: “I’ll just take the sandwich, just like, as it is. Please.”

Yuqi quirked her mouth to the side, an amused smile forming. “Hold the attitude, mister. Rough morning?”

“Something like that,” Mark sighed, leaning his elbows onto the counter and putting his face in his hands. The customer in line behind him cleared his throat, and Mark twitched in annoyance. His stomach grumbled, empty.  “Sorry.”

“We’ve just run out of everything bagels,” she told him.

“What?” Mark shot up straight, stunned and disappointed by his luck. It seemed nothing would be working for him this morning. He woke up in his ex-boyfriend’s boyfriend’s bed, he spilled his latte, he’d have to get an onion bagel instead...

“Ha, just kidding. The look on your face!”

“Mean.”

“Lighten up. What’s your name for your order?”

“Mark.”

Yuqi rang him up quickly and handed him the receipt. “What a coincidence. My friend was just telling me about this guy Mark Lee he met at a party last night—”

“I’m Mark Lee,” Mark said, trying to take the receipt with hands that had suddenly seemingly turned into sock puppets.

She smiled as wide as her face would go. “No way! So you met my friend, Lucas!”

Lucas? Lucas who? Lucas… Mark wracked his brain for a Lucas he knew but couldn’t come up with anything that seemed to fit this situation. He knew a Luke from high school and another Luke from church. But no Lucas from last night. The longer he thought without responding, the more Yuqi’s smile dimmed.

The customer behind him cleared their throat again.

“Relax, Carl, I’ve already put in your order!” Yuqi, eyes flashing like a steel blade, snapped at Carl, the customer behind Mark. She turned back to Mark, placid. “It’s kind of lame you don’t remember, but he did say you were both really drunk. He said you traded numbers, so he’s in your phone!”

Mark flushed. “I’m so embarrassed I don’t remember,” he admitted in a mumble.

“Yeah…” Yuqi bit into her smile just as Mark’s order was announced at the other end of the counter. 

“I’ll—I’ll text him.”

“Good plan.” Yuqi stood there expectantly, unblinking. Despite how short she was, she was kind of really intimidating.

Mark stumbled over how to exit the conversation graciously. “Okay, well. Thanks for telling me about Lucas and, uh, the bagel.” 

“Just doing my job, Mark Lee,” Yuqi said. 

“Well, thank you for your service.” Mark cringed as soon as the words left his mouth and beat a hasty retreat, swinging by the end of the counter to pick up his sandwich and high-tailing it out of the shop and back into the sunlight. Bag with the bagel in one hand and phone in the other, he scrolled through his contacts and saw Lucas’, newly added, and pulled up their text history.

It was short. It consisted of:

 

Lucas:
Hey! It’s Lucas!

Mark:
Hye budydy!

Lucas:
Good luck tonight
I believe in you

Mark:
Thx htat means a lot!!!
Ill due my best!!

Lucas:
Text me tomorrow so i know u didn’t end up in a ditch

 

This was followed by a slightly blurry photograph of Mark with Lucas, who was so hot that Mark tripped over a crack in the sidewalk again and nearly dropped his bagel bag, which would have been a tragedy. They were both looking into the camera for a selfie, Lucas’ v-sign steady near his chin, and Mark’s near his eye. Mark’s hair was a mess, and one eye was half-closed. 

God, he had been plastered, huh?

As he stared at the photo, the scene around it started to sharpen into clearer focus. And then—

“Oh, no.”

 

 

SCENE: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

SETTING: The House Party, but now in the game room in the basement, where the party is calmer and more subdued. Example: People in low conversation, passing joints. Example: A couple making out in the corner. LUCAS and MARK are sitting on the couch while HENDERY and DEJUN play Smash Brothers on the TV from the floor. A cold, half-eaten pizza takes up most of the coffee table, while a variety of cups and glasses take up the rest of it.

LUCAS:
It’s only a matter of time before they find you down here, buddy.

MARK:
Not if they don’t find me.

LUCAS:
Dude, you’re wasted. Drink this.

LUCAS hands MARK a cup of water. MARK fishes a ping pong ball out of it.

LUCAS:
Ignore that.

MARK:
Will you defend me from them if they come down here? I think you could take Johnny in a fight. Ten’s a shrimp but I probably couldn’t—I’m the worst. I’ll just roll over and submit.

LUCAS:
I can take anyone but Ten, probably. But I’m also more into submitting.

MARK:
What?

LUCAS:
Is that not what we’re talking about?

MARK:
What are we talking about?

LUCAS:
Your potential partners tonight? You, submitting…?

MARK:
They’re not my partners in anything!

LUCAS:
But you want them to be.

MARK:
Not really!

LUCAS:
But you think they’re hot.

MARK:
Maybe.

LUCAS:
And you’re equally attracted to both of them.

MARK:
Oh, god. I’m equally attracted to both of them.

LUCAS:
So we are talking about this.

MARK:
What? What are we talking about? I’m too drunk for this.

LUCAS:
You want to sleep with both of them.

MARK:
I mean, I want to sleep with Johnny. Again.

LUCAS:
A-ha!

MARK:
No. Oh no. I didn’t say that.

LUCAS:
You just did.

MARK:
Johnny’s my ex-boyfriend. I didn’t say that!

LUCAS:
He could be your ex-ex-boyfriend. And you did say that. You want to sleep with him. 

MARK:
Come here. Let me whisper a secret in your ear. Jesus, you’re tall. Johnny’s just really. Really attractive and hot. And big. Did I mention that? And he used to bring me coffee in the mornings before class. And he’d block out scenes with me just because he cared and wanted to help. He was my best friend. Plus his cock was, like—

LUCAS: 
Okay! And what about Ten…?

MARK:
Johnny would eviscerate him with his cock.

LUCAS:
Super graphic, and also not what I was going for. I meant, do you also want to sleep with Ten?

MARK:
I just met him.

LUCAS:
So?

MARK:
So? Is that wrong? I think they look good together, but I think I still have feelings for Johnny. I haven’t told him. Should I tell him? And I think Ten is cute. He smiled at me and my chest exploded. Like, BAM! Heart all over the place. He’s really cute.

LUCAS:
Let’s take a selfie.

MARK:
What?

LUCAS:
I want to memorialize this evening. I want you to look back on it and remember that I was the one who steered you in the right direction.

MARK:
What direction?

LUCAS uses his phone to take a selfie with MARK. MARK, bewildered, only manages a droopy v-sign. In the blur of motion that follows, MARK sees LUCAS waving in the direction of the stairs with a smile on his face.

LUCAS:
Hey, Ten!

END SCENE.

 

.

 

The buildings were starting to change around Mark into the large, institutional structures of his university, many of the buildings set back from the main road behind an expansive lawn of green grass, and he wandered across the familiar streets until he reached the facade of the university’s library and scoped out a bench where he could park himself and eat his sandwich. Even on a Saturday morning, Mark noticed the bike racks near the entrance to the library mostly full, and the doors into the building never remained shut for long as students and visitors milled in and out.

He sat and held his sandwich in his lap. He ran his fingers through his hair. His phone buzzed with a text notification.

 

Lucas:  
I heard from Yuqi that you didn’t die!

 

Mark called him, a snap decision he almost immediately regretted as soon as it began to ring, but Lucas answered before he could hang up.

“You called!” Lucas sounded as excited as a puppy welcoming his owner home. 

Mark smiled. “Hey, man.”

“So you remember me after all, aw.”

“I remember meeting you,” Mark admitted. “I remember…you saying you were into submitting.”

“It’s not a secret or anything.” 

Mark could hear the smile in Lucas’ voice, and it put him at ease. Talking to Lucas was like talking to an old friend. “I honestly don’t remember much else about last night, though?” he asked, hoping Lucas would get the hint.

“Oh! You mean how you ended up at Ten’s place?”

“I just meant the party! How did you know about that?”

“Ten’s been texting me. He was worried you wandered off into traffic or something.”

“Why didn’t he text me ? Why didn’t Johnny text me?” As soon as he said it, Mark retracted it in his head. Johnny had texted him; he’d just never responded, and in typical Johnny fashion, Johnny had probably taken that to mean he should back off until further notice. Johnny always had been so very patient with Mark. “Never mind. So how did I end up at Ten’s?”

“It’s all very simple and logical,” Lucas said. “You started throwing up when they found you in the basement. So they said they’d help you get home. And then you insisted you could not go back to your place with Jeno or Jaemin like that because you were embarrassed.”

“It’s Jeno. He’s the roommate. Jaemin’s just over all the time.”

“That’s nice.”

“So nothing happened?”

“I mean, I don’t know what happened when you got to Ten’s place. But I’m pretty sure nothing happened. Otherwise, he’d tell me.”

Relief washed over Mark. It was nice to hear the confirmation aloud. “Did he tell you I was spooning him when I woke up?”

“Yeah. He likes being the little spoon.”

“Did he tell you he was naked?”

“I assumed.”

“Lucas,” Mark said. “Who’s Kun?”

“Kun? Kun’s one of Ten’s boyfriends.”

Mark nodded. “Right. Sure. Wait, one of?”

“They’re polyamorous,” Lucas said. “Don’t be a dick about it.”

“I wouldn’t!” Mark thought. “Wait, so Johnny—?”

“I think they’re dating him.”

“So, then, I…?”

Lucas giggled into the phone. “Mark, I can’t decide that for you, dude. Listen, I gotta go. We need to take Bella for a walk.”

“Okay,” Mark said weakly. “See you.”

“See you!” Lucas said with much more enthusiasm. He hung up. 

Mark unwrapped his sandwich and took the biggest bite he could manage out of it, so that he was chewing for a while, before pulling up his messages on his phone again and typing out a response.

 

Johnny:
Hey where’d u go? Kun’s making breakfast

Mark:
I am so confused

Johnny:
Can i come over?

Mark:
I’m not home yet. In 20?

Johnny:
K, in 20

 

.

 

Johnny brought two bottles of red Gatorade with him, one of which he shoved in Mark’s direction as soon as crossed the threshold into the apartment. “You’ve probably had nothing but coffee today, huh?” he asked as he was stepping out of his shoes.

“And a bagel.” Mark shuffled back to give Johnny some room. It had been a while since Johnny had last visited, and he was reminded of just how much space Johnny took up. His shoulders seemed massive against the doorframe. “Come in. Um, sit? Jeno and Jaemin are out.”

“Nice of them.”

“When I said you were coming over, they cleared out fast.” Mark chuckled, walking to the cramped living room that contained one armchair too many for its size. “Maybe they know something I don’t?” 

He curled himself on one of the armchairs, and Johnny lowered himself carefully onto the couch. An awkward silence rose between them quickly, thick as smoke.

Johnny had tied his hair back again, but now he pulled it loose from its tie and ran his fingers through it. 

“When’s the last time you cut your hair?” Mark asked him, breaking the silence. He uncapped the Gatorade and took a sip, then another and another, until suddenly half of the bottle was gone. He hadn’t even realized he was that thirsty. 

“Ten trimmed it a couple of weeks ago,” Johnny mumbled, checking the ends of his blond locks. “But I didn’t want to cut it short. I kind of like the length.”

“It looks good on you,” Mark said. His cheeks flared with heat. “I never told you. The blond. The length.”

Johnny smiled at him, little whiskers forming on his cheeks, and it was like the sun was coming out from behind a curtain of clouds. “Thanks. I guess I wanted to try something new and, I don’t know, it’s working for me. And we’ve hardly had time to really catch up.” He paused, a skip in his breath that was hard not to notice. “I know it’s been...weird.”

Mark chugged the rest of the Gatorade to drown the guilt souring his gut. That had been mostly his fault. He’d been friendly with Johnny in class but unsure how to navigate rebuilding a relationship that had been truly wonderful, especially since he’d been the one to ruin it. 

And of course, when he’d realized he was still in love with Johnny he felt like he wasn’t really allowed to be around him. Denying himself of Johnny’s presence had been his very own version of self-flagellation as a penance for his two-faced desires. He couldn’t not be in a relationship and still be in a relationship—with Johnny. That wasn’t how the world worked.

“It’s been weird because I’ve been a bad friend,” Mark said. “And I’m, uh, really sorry about that.”

“You haven’t been a bad friend,” Johnny said immediately. Mark looked at him plainly, with dead eyes, and Johnny retracted. “Okay, you haven’t been the greatest either. But I think it’s just because you’ve been, like, stuck.”

“Stuck?”

“What do you remember about last night?” Johnny asked him, changing gears so quickly that Mark was shocked into answering truthfully.

“Arriving, trying to avoid you and failing, meeting Ten, uh, meeting Lucas? Drinking too much.”

“Oh, so you don’t remember meeting Kun? Or...anything else we talked about?”

“What did we talk about?”

Johnny twisted the bottle cap on the Gatorade, opening it and closing it over and over while he chewed on his bottom lip.

“C’mon,” Mark encouraged him. He continued naturally because he had said the words so many times before: “You know you can tell me anything.”

Johnny looked at him with wide eyes, real deer-in-headlights, before he nodded, sighing. “Well, we talked about us. And Ten and Kun. See, they’re—”

“Dating,” Mark supplied. 

Johnny nodded again. “Yeah, and they’re also—”

“Polyamorous,” Mark supplied again, and this time Johnny’s eyes narrowed. 

“So you do remember.”

“Lucas told me this morning.”

“And what do you think about it?” Johnny leaned forward on the couch, elbows on his knees.

Mark shook his head. “What’s this got to do with me? I don’t have a problem with it, if that’s what you’re asking. But also, like, you don’t need my permission to be dating Ten. And Kun.”

“I’m not asking for your permission, Mark,” Johnny said. “I’m just...showing you something different.”

Something different. The second worst thing Mark had ever said had come back to taunt him. It was still true that he’d wanted something different, but he hadn’t known what it was. Was it this? Could it be this? Johnny’s eyes were glittering the way they would when he’d tell Mark about a perfect location he’d scoped out for his next photo project. 

“So you want me to date you and Ten and Kun?”

“If that’s what you want to try, then I say go for it, but I was just thinking of starting small. Like maybe we could go on a date again and see how that goes, and you can know that, like, it’s okay with me if you want to see other people too? As long as we all talk about it first.”

Johnny made it sound so easy. So open and free. Different. Exciting. Multi-faceted. A small part of Mark held him back from accepting Johnny at face-value, scared this was all some joke he wasn’t in on. “Are you sure you’d be okay with that? You’re such a romantic. You say so yourself.”

“I know that,” Johnny said with a chuckle. “And what’s more romantic than being able to share my love with more than one person, openly and honestly, and without regret?”

Mark hadn’t thought about it that way, but he could see what Johnny meant by it. Johnny had always loved people, thriving off others’ energies and connecting with them so fully and thoroughly. Mark had always loved people, too, just more quietly, and in his own way. 

And he knew he loved Johnny, still, and probably would always. And the idea of being free to love more than Johnny was a no-brainer. That clicked for him. He wanted that. There was just one more thing he needed to clear up:

“You sure you want to try again with me? After I ruined things the first time?”

“Yeah, man,” Johnny said. “I love you.”

It was more than enough for Mark. He lifted himself from his armchair and knocked into the coffee table on his way to Johnny, straddling him and pushing his mouth up against Johnny’s. The kiss was full and warm, like Mark was cupping his hands around his favorite drink in his favorite mug, and when Mark felt Johnny’s hands circle his waist and pull him in closer, he sighed against Johnny’s lips.

“I love you, too,” Mark said when they pulled apart.

“I see you haven’t brushed your teeth yet,” Johnny teased.

Mark slapped his shoulder and hid his face against Johnny’s neck. “Shut up,” he said, muffled.

 

.

 

SCENE: THE BEST THING MARK EVER SAID

SETTING: A coffee shop, mid-day. It is not too crowded, a pleasant hum of conversation and music in the air. JOHNNY and MARK sit at a table by the window, mugs half-empty, laptops open in front of them. JOHNNY’s bouncing knee is shaking the table.

MARK:
Sorry, but can you quit that? I’m just—really trying to concentrate and everything is distracting right now. 

JOHNNY:
Sure, yeah. Too much caffeine. I’m going to get another, you want?

MARK:
Sure.

JOHNNY:
Be right back.

JOHNNY leaves and returns with two fresh coffees. When he sits, he continues to fidget. After JOHNNY’s knee knocks into the table for the third time, MARK pushes his laptop aside.

MARK:
Babe… 

JOHNNY:
Sorry! I’m just really excited. I want you to like him.

MARK:
I already like him. It’s Ten.

JOHNNY:
Yeah, but like. As someone you want to be romantic with, also. We can go on three-way dates!

MARK:
We sure can.

JOHNNY:
You know that we’ve been back together now for a couple of months.

MARK:
I know.

JOHNNY:
And how are things with Lucas?

MARK:
Really, really good.

JOHNNY:
What about with me?

MARK:
Really, really good. So great. I’m really happy. Like, really happy. Like, over the moon— 

JOHNNY:
You’re overselling it, but I know you’re doing it for me.

MARK:
I’m just really happy.

JOHNNY:
I’m glad you gave us another chance.

MARK:
I’m glad you gave me another chance.

JOHNNY pulls something out of his pocket. It is a key with a ribbon looped through the keyhole. He pushes it across the table toward MARK.

MARK:
You’re giving me a key? Again?

JOHNNY:
I just want you to be able to come over whenever you want.

MARK:
I already do.

JOHNNY:
Don’t be a smartass when I’m being generous and sentimental and a good boyfriend.

MARK:
I’ll cherish it forever. Thank you.

JOHNNY:
That’s better. Love you. 

MARK:
Love you, too.

TEN enters the cafe and locates JOHNNY and MARK, walking up to them and giving them each a kiss on the cheek in greeting before sitting in JOHNNY’s lap.

TEN:
Sorry I’m late. What’d I miss?

END SCENE.

 

.