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Just Let Me Adore You

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Mark thought he could handle anything Kit threw at him. After all, he’s been more than happy to handle Kit’s backhanded compliments, his silent furies, and even the occasional jabs at Mark’s ribs. But Kit actually rejecting him…?

Mark isn’t handling that.

He’s trying. But he’s been moping around campus all week because he sees Kit everywhere even when he isn’t really there. Because Mark created memories with Kit everywhere. How is he supposed to quit Kit and move on when he can’t get any real distance from him? He can’t even sleep without drinking himself silly at the bar with his seniors. And he keeps waking up early because he got so used to getting up in time to see Kit before his classes. Worse still, his dreams are haunted by happy visions of Kit saying yes to being his boyfriend and everything falling into place — only to wake up to the shattered version of reality where none of that happened.

Mark doesn’t want to quit Kit, but he doesn’t see that he has a choice. He did everything he could possibly do to make Kit his. And when he poured his heart out to Kit in a confession in front of their friends, Kit walked away.

Mark can admit that Kit hurt his pride by rejecting him so publicly, but his ego isn’t so fragile it can’t recover from that. What he can’t get over is the apparent fact that Kit doesn’t want to be with him. Because Mark really thought that after everything, after all of the flirting and the kissing and the way Kit told him he didn’t have anyone else… And the fact that Kit kissed Mark first! What was all of that if Kit doesn’t actually have feelings for him? Mark isn’t heartbroken just because he got rejected, he’s heartbroken because Kit once again chose others over Mark. And Mark loves him so much, but Kit doesn’t want him.

So he told Kit that he’d stop pursuing him. Ever since he’s done his best to avoid him. If Kit really doesn’t want to be with him, Mark can’t force him. Ultimately, Mark wants Kit to be happy, even if that means they’re not together. Even if it’s killing Mark a little bit.

But now Kit is confusing him. Does he want Mark to leave him alone or not?

The first inkling Mark got that something was out of sync with Kit’s rejection happened yesterday afternoon at the school festival. Wayu was feeling faint so Mark took him to the medical tent, and of course Kit was on duty. It tore Mark up inside to face him, but this was for Wayu, so Mark tried to just stand there and not look at Kit at all. Poor Wayu kept trying to find a way to patch things up between them, suggesting they go for a walk together around the festival since they’d all been too busy to explore it for themselves yet. But Kit had looked at Mark for a long moment and then shaken his head and told Wayu he needed to stay in the medical tent.

The bitter taste of resentment crept up the back of Mark’s throat.

“Don’t waste your time trying to persuade him, Yu,” Mark said. “There’s no use bothering him if he doesn’t want to go.”

Kit looked at Mark quickly.

“A man needs to keep his word instead of changing his mind and confusing others,”  Kit said like he was telling Wayu when clearly it was meant for Mark.

That was the first thing. Mark was mulling over Kit’s words when a bunch of girls came in asking the campus beau to put their pins on them before they had to get back to their classes. Mark complied, but his attention was drawn inexorably back to Kit, now sitting with Thanyu over at the intake desk. He tried — he really tried! — not to be jealous of the pair of them whispering together, but he couldn’t help it. Watching them made his heart ache like it was breaking all over again. The next thing he knew, the girl in front of him gasped his name and Mark looked down to see that he’d stabbed his finger with her pin and there was blood welling over his fingertip.

“It’s okay,” he insisted. Truly, he barely felt the pain. So he put the pin where it belonged and held his finger carefully away from the girl’s white shirt.

Once the girls were gone, Wayu immediately contrived to leave with Thanyu so that Kit would have to be the one to treat Mark’s wound. Mark wanted to argue with his best friend, but Wayu was already leaning on Thanyu and walking away. So Mark sat quietly on the hospital bed while Kit held Mark’s finger still and swiped antiseptic over it.

He couldn’t look directly at Kit; it hurt too much.

“It’s fine,” he said stoically. “Just a little wound.”

There was a strange note to Kit’s voice when he replied, “If you’re hurt, just say so. Is it that hard to be frank with your feelings?”

Mark had a feeling that Kit wasn’t just talking about the wound he was binding. It was hard enough to be in Kit’s presence especially when Mark was still fighting off the bitter taste of having to watch him and Thanyu together. Did Kit really want Mark to say, I’m hurt because you hurt me!

Mark couldn’t say that.   

“I don’t want any sympathy,”  he said with a touch of martyrdom. “I’ve got more painful wounds, but I can still endure them.”

His stomach twisted, and he glanced at Kit to gauge his reaction.

Kit was staring at him, something closed about his expression, like his normally expressive brown eyes were shadowed. Mark’s heart gave a little stutter.

“Which wounds?” Kit asked.

Mark looked away again. Because he couldn’t give Kit the answer. If he didn’t already know, Mark didn’t want to burden him by saying it out loud.

Kit sighed. “If you want to blame me, make it clear. Otherwise I won’t get it.”

He carefully wrapped Mark’s finger with a bandage, tamping down the sides with his fingertips, but not touching Mark any more than he had to.

“Done.” Kit snapped the first aid kit closed.

“Thank you,” Mark replied quietly. He watched as Kit stood up to go back to the intake desk. And suddenly, despite his aching heart, Mark didn’t want this moment with Kit to be over. He grabbed his arm before he could go too far. “But why do I still hurt?”

Kit’s expression was still unreadable. But when he spoke, there was a strain in his voice that Mark hadn’t heard before.

“And don’t you think it hurts me too, Mark?” Kit said.

That was Mark’s second moment of confusion. He truly doesn’t understand. If they’re both hurting because they aren’t together, then why aren’t they together? He keeps going over Kit’s words as if they’ll change and offer something new. But in the end, Mark keeps reminding himself that Kit is the one who walked away, so why would Kit be in pain too? It doesn’t make any sense.

It only got more baffling last night. Mark went out to the bar with his seniors like usual. They already had multiple drinks in them when Jack nudged Mark, pointing to the door. Kit stood there looking in, something tight and worried in his gaze. Mark was sure there was no way Kit was there for him, but his seniors insisted that he go talk to him and see if he could patch things up.

But the alcohol made Mark belligerent in the face of Kit’s concern, and they ended up arguing. Kit said something about waiting to drive him home, so Mark turned to go back to his table, and then…

Well, after that Mark doesn’t remember much. He must’ve gotten very drunk indeed because he woke up in Kit’s bed this morning with only the vaguest memories of how he got there. Worst of all, instead of Kit being there to wake him up, it was Wayu telling him that Kit left early to go study and that he sent Wayu up to get Mark out of bed. And then Wayu had pointed out the hickey on Mark’s neck, and Mark almost had a heart attack. He has a hazy memory of a girl at the bar giving him a drink after he came out of the bathroom, and then that same girl with her lips next to his ear, whispering nonsense he can’t remember.

Mark has a sinking feeling that Kit saw the mark on his neck and that’s why he sent Wayu to wake him up instead of doing it himself. He probably thinks Mark is some sort of player now. But Mark hasn’t thought about anyone but Kit since that first day he flirted with him. Even now when his heart is lying in splinters at Kit’s feet, he can’t imagine a future where he thinks about anyone but Kit.

The only bright spot in the last twenty-four hours (other than the confusing fact that Kit apparently still cares enough to drive him home from the bar when he’s wasted) was Wayu telling Mark that Thanyu only views Kit as his junior. Mark knows it’s horrible of him to be so jealous, but if he can’t be with Kit, he’s not sure he can stand to see Kit with someone else.

~

Mark fidgets. He’s waiting outside of Kit’s apartment building with the key to Kit’s place in his pocket. He’s not sure if what he did inside Kit’s apartment a few minutes ago is going to go over well, but… Well. Kit has been sending him mixed signals. And for all that Mark said he’d quit him and walk away, he can’t seem to make himself do that.

He hears footsteps and turns — and, yes, it’s Kit, striding toward him with a stern look on his face. No backing out now. Mark smiles nervously.

“About last night,” he says once Kit is close enough to hear. “I’m—”

“Give me the key,” Kit interrupts.

Right. Mark deflates a little. Obviously Kit is mad at him about last night. And Mark knows that he messed up by getting too drunk and letting some stranger feel him up. But he really wants Kit to give him a chance to explain.

He fishes the key out of his pocket, but keeps it in his hand.

“I’m sorry that I was so drunk,” he blurts out. “And thank you. For giving me a ride.”

Kit stares at him, thin-lipped and silent. Mark’s fractured heart pounds painfully against his ribcage. He wasn’t this nervous facing Kit yesterday, but that was before he started putting together Kit’s mixed signals. Now that he has a spark of hope, he’s afraid to watch it die again.

Kit reaches out to grab the key, but Mark closes his hand around Kit’s fingers and doesn’t let go.

“Don’t you want to ask me anything about last night?” he asks desperately.

“What else do I need to know?” Kit’s words are clipped. Mark tries not to flinch. “Are you going to tell me the reason you got drunk and almost laid down in the street? Or are you going to tell me who gave you that mark on your neck?”

Mark actually feels a little scared of Kit’s intensity. He tries to explain.

“I wasn’t aware when it happened. I was forced! I have no idea who did it.”

Kit’s eyes narrow. “If you want to lie, tell a better one.” His fingers curl around the key still in Mark’s hand and he yanks it out of Mark’s grip. “If you told me you got a bug bite, that would be more believable.”

Mark bites the inside of his cheek. This is actually worse than he imagined. He’s used to Kit blowing hot and cold, but he’s not used to Kit not believing him.

“I didn’t lie to you,” he promises as earnestly as he knows how. “Trust me, P’Kit. You’d know if I was lying.”

Kit glances away like he can’t stand to look at him. And Mark deflates further when he remembers what he did upstairs before Kit showed up.

“Actually,” he says in a low voice. “There is one thing I lied to you about.”

Kit turns back, words lashing out of him.

“What is it?”

Mark sort of wants to sink into the ground now. He knew Kit would be mad, but he didn’t expect this. Oh well. He’s got nothing left to lose here so he’s going to tell the truth anyway.

“I lied to you when I said I’d quit you,” he says quietly. He looks down at his feet and tries to gather the strength to say what he knows he should say next. “Until now, I never restrained myself from you. I’ll try harder. So don’t worry about me.”

He tries to meet Kit’s eyes, but it’s hard to face their cold intensity. Mark really has no idea what Kit is thinking.

“I’m happy that you came to me last night,” Mark admits, tipping his chin up. “But I was stupid, and I guess I couldn’t keep that chance you gave. Thank you again for taking care of me. I… I won’t bother you again.”

There he said it. Somehow. He starts to go, dragging the pieces of his heart with him.

And then he hears Kit let out an exasperated sigh.

“You made that decision by yourself again. And you never let me reply.”

Mark half-turns. Kit is facing him with his arms crossed, something fierce in his expression that isn’t only anger. That little spark of hope inside of Mark tries to kindle itself again.

“What do you want to tell me?” he ventures.

“Right, are you ready to listen?” Kit says, and he is impatient. Mark knows this tone and rejoices at its familiarity. It’s the tone Kit uses when Mark is pushing him just a little too far, and Kit is trying to get him to reel himself back in before he truly crosses a line. “Be quiet this time. Don’t say or ask or do anything until I finish, okay?”

Mark wants to hold onto this tiny glimmer of hope he’s feeling, but he isn’t sure...

“Okay,” he says slowly. “But I want to know what it’s about.”

Kit closes his eyes as though he’s gathering his wits.

And then he says, very firmly, “About us.”

Something inside of Mark seems to explode, and he turns to face Kit fully, trying hard to stifle the idiotic grin he’s sure has just broken across his face.

“Please, start!” he babbles. “I’ll listen. I won’t say anything, I’ll only listen to you.”

“Mark,” Kit starts seriously, and Mark almost leans forward with how hard he’s listening. “Well.” Kit frowns. “I’m…” And Mark watches as Kit’s eyes narrow, not looking at Mark’s face, but looking at…

Mark claps his hand hard over his neck to cover the visible hickey. He should’ve changed his shirt before he came over here.

“P’Kit, look at my eyes! Just look into my eyes. Please continue. Don’t worry about the other thing. P’Kit…?”

Kit looks angry again. He shakes himself with an audible growl.

“I changed my mind,” he snaps. “Wait until that damn mark’s gone, and then I’ll tell you.”

He shoulders his school bag and starts marching up the stairs of his building. Mark calls after him, his hand still clasped firmly over the offending mark.

“P’Kit! It will take many days for it to go away. P’Kit? P’Kit, come back! What were you going to say about us? P’Kit?”

But Kit never turns back. Mark can hear his faint grumbling right up until he disappears into his building.

Mark rubs his neck ruefully.

“Where can I get rid of this?” he asks the now empty air. But that tiny glimmer of hope within him is starting to grow. 

~

Kit stalks up the stairs to his apartment with both hands clenched tight around the strap of his school bag. He wants to keep being mad, but he’s not really. He’s still overwhelmed with the storm of emotions that whirled through him in the last week. He tried to tell Mark yesterday, but he’s been hurting too. He’s been crushed and angry and bewildered because Mark said he was giving up on him. And he’s been worried and tense and jealous because Mark has been getting drunk at the bar every night and coming home with hickeys from strangers.

Mostly though, Kit has been disappointed in himself for trusting Pha over Mark. He never should have taken Wayu to meet Pha that day Mark asked him to be his boyfriend. He should’ve stayed with Mark and told him how he really felt. Now everything is ruined between them, and Kit just wants so badly for it to go back to the way it was before.

He opens the door to his apartment and steps into something that seems more like a fairyland. There are little candles everywhere. Their flames flicker with a soft, romantic light. Kit stops to take it all in. His pulse is racing. He takes a deep breath and thinks he can still smell Mark’s cologne in the air. He imagines the other boy here in his space, taking the time to light all of these candles one by one just for Kit.

He spies a note on the desk. The afterimage of Mark gives him that charmingly mischievous smile he wears so well and says, “I wrote a note for you. Please read it before you scold me.”

Kit sets down his bag and picks up the note. It says: Don’t be angry with me. I told you that I love you even more when you’re mad.

Kit shakes his head, but somehow he’s smiling. There’s a small stack of photos below the note. They look like snapshots one of their friends took on the day Mark asked Kit to be his boyfriend. The one on top shows Mark facing Kit with that huge bouquet of flowers, a brilliant grin all over his face. Kit remembers that moment very well; the surprise he felt because Mark had somehow organized all of this without Kit catching on, and then the ensuing flood of confusingly tender feelings over the fact that Mark wanted to publicly show Kit how much he cares about him.

He flips the photo over. There’s another note in Mark’s handwriting.

My feelings for you are still the same.

And Kit remembers suddenly that Mark set this up in his room before the conversation they’d just had downstairs.

“I lied to you when I said I’d quit you,” Mark said. And it looks like he was telling the truth.

Kit picks up the umbrella resting on his desk in between the candles. He opens it slowly. It’s the umbrella with the red heart painted on it from that same day. Kit rests it on the bed and studies it for a long moment.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and Kit takes it out to see he has a message from Mark.

I forgot something. Can I come up and get it?

Kit’s mouth twitches. Already Mark is back to insisting on taking up Kit’s time, being in his life, showing Kit how much he cares about him.

No, he texts back without any remorse. Just leave it here!

He still doesn’t want to see Mark before that damn hickey is gone. It’s making him mad again just remembering that it’s there. Stupid Mark and his stupid pretty face. He’s probably been making out with all kinds of people in that bar and not even remembering it.

“P’Kit. Don’t leave me. I have only you.”

But then there’s Mark’s slurred words from last night when he was mostly passed out on Kit’s bed.

Kit fights his twitching mouth again. He grabs the umbrella and tries to fold it closed, but it won’t budge for some reason.

Kit’s phone buzzes again. Kit sets the umbrella down and looks. Mark again. Of course.

That umbrella is quite hard to close, his text reads. It needs some tricks… Do you want my help?

Kit lifts his phone and opens the camera to take a picture of himself frowning and pointing at the open umbrella on his bed.

Such a stubborn umbrella, he types. Just like its owner!

He sends the message and leans back on his desk. He can’t fight his smile off any longer. He looks around his softly glowing room with a hopeful feeling somewhere deep inside of him. Maybe they can fix this after all.

~

  A few days later, Mark knocks on Kit’s door bright and early. There’s no answer, so he calls Kit’s cell phone. He can hear it ringing faintly from behind the closed door. When the call finally connects, Mark opens his mouth to speak, but the call ends before he can get out a word. Mark grins, imagining Kit grumpily hanging up the phone. He resumes knocking at the door.

After several minutes more, Kit opens the door. He blinks sleepily at Mark as he snaps, “What is it?”

Mark practiced his megawatt smile in the mirror before he got here. But he didn’t need to. Just seeing Kit’s adorable face, all sleepy and faintly annoyed is enough to make Mark grin for days. Kit leans on the door and frowns as Mark studies the other boy’s blue pajamas and the way his hair is all fluffed up on one side. He looks so cute that Mark can hardly stand it. How did he ever think that he could give Kit up?

“If you don’t know why you’re here, I’ll just go back to sleep,” Kit says finally.

“Wait. Calm down.” Mark is still smiling like an idiot, but he can’t help it. He turns his head to the side and raises his chin to show Kit his profile and, more importantly, his neck which he has left deliberately bared with the open collar of his shirt. “Look closely,” he says. “There’s no hickey anymore.”

He catches Kit rolling his eyes. “So what? Why are you showing me?” And then he catches Kit trying to eye him surreptitiously from head to toe. Mark feels a little frisson of excitement travel down his spine.

“Let’s talk about us,” he insists. “You said we’d talk when the hickey was gone.”

Kit’s gaze narrows. He looks at Mark’s neck again with a sort of wary dissatisfaction. “Are you sure? I can still see it.”

Mark immediately grabs at his neck. He shakes his head. “No, I checked it very well earlier,” he says. “It’s gone!” He’s sure that it is. He even looked at it on his phone camera on the way over here!

Kit blinks at him and Mark realizes that he isn’t actually very awake yet. He’s so cute. Mark fights off the urge to wrap Kit in his arms and kiss him all over.

“Are you blind?” Kit says. “Go back and check again.” He’s trying to snap with his usual verve, and Mark wants to kiss him even more.

He slaps his hand against the door as Kit starts to heave it closed. Kit’s frown deepens.

“My eyes might have a problem,” Mark says as seriously as he can manage. But his smile comes back a second later. “Guess I need your help to check them for me.”

Oh, he missed this. Flirting with Kit is the most fun Mark’s ever had in his life. He can’t believe he almost gave this up.

Kit shoots him a flat look. “I won’t do any such thing. I’m going back to sleep.” And he starts to shut the door again.

This time, Mark steps inside just as the door swings closed. He locks it behind him as Kit starts a weary protest. Mark sidesteps him and bounds across the room to settle himself on the edge of Kit’s bed. He grins as Kit shuffles over, and pats the space on the blanket next to him. Kit folds his arms and remains a good three feet away.

“Get out of my bed,” he grouses.

“Aw! Don’t be possessive.” Mark beams up at Kit. “We slept here together all night before, didn’t we?” He tests the waters further. “Aren’t you sleepy? Come here. Let’s sleep together.”

Kit’s face lights up with his own brand of fierceness that Mark loves so much, all sparks and half-embarrassed vitriol.

“Do you want to try me?”

Mark absolutely cannot resist.

“What do you have for me to try?” he asks with a smirk.

That does it and Kit boils over. “Stop talking! You’re dead!” He grabs Mark’s arm and pulls, trying to heave him up off the bed. Mark resists. It’s not too difficult because Kit is smaller than him and Mark already has all of his weight leaning backwards. After a second of letting Kit pull, Mark turns his simple resistance into a pull of his own and Kit immediately goes off-balance. Mark tugs on his arm as he falls to spin him around, and then he catches Kit neatly in his lap. Mark hugs him close before Kit can try to get up again.

Kit actually doesn’t try to get up. He sits quietly, as though he’s surprised but not displeased to find himself in Mark’s arms. Mark says a quick and silent prayer that this moment lasts as long as possible.

“P’Kit,” he says, and he tips back his chin toward the ceiling. “Check again closely. Look and see if it’s still there. Or if there are hickeys anywhere else.”

Kit turns a little so he can glance at Mark’s neck. He looks unimpressed.

“Why? Besides the one on your neck, you also have other hickeys?” And there’s a dangerous note in his voice that Mark absolutely relishes. Kit is jealous! He’s mad about the hickey because he’s jealous! Mark could die of happiness.

“If there are any…” Mark puts his lips close to Kit’s ear. “They must come only from you,” he murmurs.

He almost laughs when he catches Kit blushing, but then the other boy is shifting himself off of Mark’s lap to face him directly.

“If you want a scar, I can give it to you,” he gripes. And he raises both fists in the air. Mark catches him by the wrists before he can land a blow and grins. This. He missed this too. He restrains Kit’s hands in his lap and grins harder.

“So rough,” he says. “But I like it.”

He does. Because he’s seen Kit wilt people with a glance, and he’s also seen him protect himself and his friends with uncompromising fire. And he knows when Kit pushes at Mark like this, it’s because he’s embarrassed about his own emotions and raising his hackles so no one else will know.

Mark loves him so much.

“When you weren’t around,” he tells him. “I missed you all the time, you know?”

Mark presses his forehead to Kit’s and rubs against him like a cat. Kit makes sounds of protestation but Mark notices that he doesn’t pull away even though he easily could. In fact, he almost seems to lean into Mark’s touch. Mark feels the hope inside of him striking sparks.

“Who are you?” Kit sounds doubtful. “Where is the real Mark?”

Mark takes a deep breath. This is why he came over this morning. He wants to tell Kit exactly how he feels so that Kit has no qualms telling him whatever he wants moving forward.

“The old Mark couldn’t win your heart and he even lost you once. So I’ve changed to be a new man.”

Kit is staring at him, his dark eyes wide. Mark can feel how seriously he’s listening and he’s glad because he means every word with every fiber of his being.

“I’ll do everything I can when you’re with me. Because I don’t want to regret it if I don’t.”

Kit makes a vain but not very significant effort to pull his hands away from Mark’s. Mark holds him a little tighter. Kit hums, considering.

“Hmm. The new Mark is so bold.” Kit smiles a little. “Aren’t you scared that I might beat you up?”

Mark smiles back. His Kit is so fierce!

“Old or new me,” he admits. I’m always afraid of you. But I have to be fearless if I want you to love me.”

It’s the unvarnished truth, and Mark is glad he said it even though it’s a bit like tossing his damaged heart at Kit’s feet. He has to trust that Kit won’t stomp all over it again.

Kit is quiet for a minute. His eyes are going back and forth between Mark and the floor like he’s searching for the right words to respond with. Mark takes Kit’s chin between his fingers and raises it so that Kit will look him in the eye.

“Please give me a chance,” he says.

And then he takes Kit’s left hand in both of his and kisses his fingers one by one. He raises Kit’s pinkie like they’re going to promise something and kisses it instead, looking deliberately at Kit as he does so. He peppers Kit’s finger with half a dozen more kisses and winds up grinning at his own ridiculousness. Only then does he put Kit’s hand back down into his lap.

Kit takes a breath, and Mark steels himself.

“I didn’t want it to come out like that,” Kit says slowly, and he looks a little sad and a little disappointed, and Mark is startled to realize that Kit is disappointed in himself. “That day that you asked me to be your boyfriend,” he clarifies. “It’s my fault. I overstepped into someone else’s business. While the only one I should care about is…”

He trails off, and Mark stares at him in shock. Is Kit really saying what he thinks he’s saying? The hope inside of him fans itself into a sudden blaze.

Kit looks up at Mark from under his eyelashes almost shyly. Hesitating just a little, he points his finger at Mark’s chest. And then taps him right where Mark’s heart is. Mark thinks his mouth might be hanging open, but he doesn’t care. The blaze of hope within him becomes a positive conflagration.

“Are you still hurt?” Kit murmurs. And he sounds so sorry that Mark is paralyzed by the million different shades of happiness crashing around inside his brain. He can’t do anything but respond with more naked truth.

“Yes, I am,” he admits. “It’s not easy to recover.” And then his happiness leaks through and he’s smiling helplessly again. “I need Dr. Kit to cure me.”

He expects another attempted jab for his flirting, and is utterly astonished when Kit leans forward and kisses him in that same spot right over his heart. Mark stares at him, dumbfounded.

Kit draws back, and Mark lets out a soft, “P’Kit…” because he can’t help but say his name. He’s so soft for this boy. He loves him so much.

“I’m sorry, Mark,” Kit says very seriously. His eyes are searching Mark’s face, and Mark hopes he doesn’t look like the pole-axed idiot he feels like right now. “Thank you for still having faith in me.”

Mark blinks and smiles and then blinks some more. He doesn’t know what to say. What can he possibly say in response? Kit just gave him a minor miracle. Mark feels like sunshine is pouring out of him, he’s so damn happy.

He wraps his arms around Kit, pulling him close and hugging him as tightly as he dares. Kit is warm and yielding in his arms. Mark can’t help but press a quick kiss to his cheek. When Kit doesn’t protest, Mark grins and wraps him up in his arms again. Kit’s chin settles on Mark’s shoulder, and after a moment more Kit winds his arms around Mark to hug him back.

Mark is afraid he’s dreaming. This is exactly the sort of thing he’s been dreaming lately and then waking up to find it was all a hopeful fantasy and the real world is still made up of a horribly Kit-less existence. So Mark shifts Kit by the shoulders in order to see his face.

Kit meets his gaze, his brown eyes very wide. He also looks a little afraid, and Mark wonders if it’s for the same reason. He would never dream of Kit being afraid at any rate, which must mean this is real. And, oh, he can also see that Kit is happy too even though he’s trying to downplay it. Mark’s happiness being reflected back at him in Kit’s eyes is overwhelming in the best possible way.

Kit, he thinks because he knows Kit probably wouldn’t like it if he said it out loud yet. Kit, I love you so much. And I know you’ll tell me you love me too one of these days.

And because he loves him and wants to show him always just how much he does, Mark pushes Kit slowly back onto the bed. He holds himself over him so that he can stare down into that beautiful face that he loves so much. He wants to drown in those big brown eyes. Kit stares back at him, surprised, but not fighting. He’s gone all soft and pliant in a way that Mark is definitely not used to. And all Mark can think about is how much he loves him and all of the ways he can tell Kit that without using words.

He shifts his weight back onto Kit’s hips and slowly starts unbuttoning Kit’s pajama top. He tries to not to think about it like he’s unwrapping present, but if he’s being honest with himself that’s exactly what it feels like. He reaches forward to caress Kit’s bared skin because he can’t not. Kit is beautiful, and Mark always wants to touch him. He moves his hand slowly over Kit’s chest and up his neck until he’s gently cupping his cheek. And Mark feels like he’s going to fall all to pieces because Kit’s skin is soft but so hot at the same time, and Mark could touch him forever just like this and be happy.

Kit is quiet in a peculiar way, like he’s too hypnotized by what Mark is doing to speak even though Mark has rarely known him to be at a loss for words — unless it was a deliberate choice. But his eyes rove restlessly from Mark’s face to the bit of his chest exposed by his open shirt, and then they look sideways to where Mark’s hand is brushing against his face. The path of his gaze leaves lines of fire all over Mark’s body, and he leans closer as though Kit is drawing him in like a magnet to steel.

Kit tenses as he stares up at Mark.

“What are you doing?” he says finally, the words coming out like half of a gasp.

Mark can’t stop smiling. Kit might be fierce, but Mark wants to be the one to crack him open.

“Do you really want to know?” he breathes.

And he bends forward very slowly for a kiss. Kit watches him, still a bit dazed looking. His eyes flutter closed as though in anticipation of the kiss, and Mark feels himself tingling all over with the same anticipation.

Just when their lips are about to touch, Kit whips his hand up and presses a warning finger against Mark’s mouth.

Mark freezes. And then he pulls back to look at Kit. There is a firm set to his mouth now that Mark recognizes.

“We aren’t together,” Kit says firmly. “You can’t do this to me.”

Mark knows that look all right. It’s Kit’s no-nonsense-or-I-will-make-you-regret-it look. Mark has zero plans to regret anything he does with Kit from this point onward in their relationship. So he moves himself further back, sliding his hand from Kit’s face back down to his bare chest. All of that warm skin feels so good beneath him, but—

“I said, you can’t!” Kit warns, his tone ratcheting up a bit in volume.

Mark has been holding himself carefully over Kit, but now he can feel Kit wriggling beneath him, half-raising his hips until he’s pressed up against him. And Mark is confused. Kit is saying one thing, but the way he’s reacting physically is saying something else entirely.

Mark meets Kit’s gaze again, and Kit stares warily back.

“I don’t like skipping steps,” Kit says. And Mark thinks he can hear a faint regret behind the words.

He pauses with his fingertips still pressed against Kit’s chest.

“Don’t scold me yet,” he says softly. “I just…” And he traces a small circle over Kit’s bare skin, watching carefully for the way the other boy shudders. Mark just barely holds back a knowing grin.

He lifts his hand away and very slowly rebuttons Kit’s shirt. He smooths the silky fabric of the pajama top across Kit’s shoulders as Kit watches him silently. When he’s done, some of Kit’s tension melts away. His hips drop back down onto the bed. Mark rests his hands on either side of Kit and stares down at him.

“I know what you think of me,” he chides Kit. “But I’m a good boy. I always listen to you.”

Something interesting sparks in Kit’s face as he returns Mark’s stare, but Mark knows it would be a mistake to try and investigate it right now. So he goes on. “If you tell me to stop, I will stop. Even though I don’t want to.” He can’t resist winking at that last, and is gratified when Kit’s cheeks turn scarlet.

Mark moves over to sit on the edge of the bed. He wants to let Kit collect himself for a minute. And Mark has to adjust his jeans a little too, so he’s glad for the moment before Kit sits up to join him. The mood has been killed, but Mark doesn’t really mind. There will be plenty of time in the future for things like this if Kit chooses him in the end. So, maybe it’s time for some more truth for Kit to base his decision on.

“You know that I can’t get over you,” he tells Kit. “It’s up to you now if you want to give me another chance.”

He watches Kit’s expression move through a surprising range of emotions that Mark isn’t sure he wants to try and interpret. After a second, Kit shifts around to face him fully.

“I should be the one asking for a chance,” he says. “If we’re going to be boyfriends, I should be the one who asks you.”

What?

“What?” Mark feels like there’s a series of atomic bombs detonating inside of him. “Are you going to ask me, P’Kit?

Kit’s mouth twitches as though he wants to smile but he’s stopping himself.

Mark seizes Kit’s arm in his excitement and hugs it to him like a teddy bear.

“Where? When? How? Tell me more, please! Please, please, please? Give me a clue!”

Kit lets out a sigh, but he doesn’t pull his arm away. Mark feels his heart swelling in his chest like it’s about to burst because Kit looks so cute and Mark loves him so much and he can’t believe it — is this really happening?

“You’ll know when it’s time,” Kit says in a low voice and Mark’s insides go molten in response. “Just be prepared.”

Mark doesn’t understand how he’s still breathing when he’s pretty sure his heart has stopped and his brain has flat-lined. He shakes his head and suddenly concentrates on the fact that Kit is still telling him someday and not right now

“Can you ask me now?” he pouts. “Please?” Because if Kit doesn’t, Mark might actually spontaneously combust.

Kit shakes his head, but it looks like it’s getting harder and harder for him to fight his smile.

“This will be the last time I ask you to wait,” he tells Mark. He leans a little closer and Mark feels electrified by his nearness. “Can you do it?”

Mark processes Kit’s words for a moment and feels himself coming back down to earth. He gets a stranglehold on his excitement and shoves it into a corner. He can deal with it later.

He claps Kit’s hand gently. “Mm. I’ll wait, no matter how long. Just one thing.”

Kit lifts his eyebrows curiously.

“Please don’t have me wait in vain,” Mark begs. And he does beg. He’s not above it. He wants Kit more than he’s wanted anything else in his entire existence and he wants Kit to know that.

From the way Kit grins at him, he’s pretty sure he knows.