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It Was Only A Kiss

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When Ou Wen found himself at the bar again, it was mostly to drown himself in his sorrows, though he wasn’t opposed to a distraction or two. It was a weekday night so things were relatively quiet and he was the only one at the counter, staring into his second whiskey. It had been a few days since KTV, a few days since he last saw Mark, and he had spent the time switching between obsessing over what happened in the bathroom and forcing himself not to think about it at all.

After he had calmed himself down enough to return to the KTV room, he had been greeted by hoots and catcalls and a particularly wicked smirk from Joanna. He knew they could see the marks on his neck – there was no way to hide them – but he wasn’t about to let them see how shaken he was. He had waved them off with a scowl and returned to his seat. That’s when he realized the space next to Hsuan Yu was empty.

“He left,” Sheng Ying had murmured to him behind Joanna’s back, catching him subtly searching the room. Joanna was leaning forward, reshuffling the deck for a new round. “He said he forgot he made other plans.”

Ou Wen had nodded, feeling numb. So that was it then. Back to running away and avoiding each other. At least this time Ou Wen wasn’t the one running, though perhaps that was because he hadn’t been given the chance to yet.

The rest of the night had passed in a blur of music and alcohol and smiles so fake it made Ou Wen’s cheeks hurt. He had stayed on principle, to prove that he was fine, that he’d be fine, that his gut wasn’t twisted in an anxious knot wondering what was going through Mark’s mind. Let Hsuan Yu report back to Mark and tell him that Ou Wen was doing just great, that he hadn’t been affected at all. Let Mark be the one on edge this time. It was only fair.

Especially since Ou Wen didn’t know what to think anymore.

By this point, it seemed obvious that Mark wasn’t as straight as everyone thought he was. Kissing Ou Wen to make a point about what a great kisser he was…a little questionable, but Ou Wen could understand that to some extent. Mark was nothing if not prideful and a dog with a bone when challenge. But a kiss was a kiss. What they did was not just a kiss. He could still feel the urgency, the heat, the hunger as Mark pressed into him- the lingering sensation of his hands on Ou Wen’s skin, running up his thigh, squeezing his ass, digging into his back. Nor could he forget the frustrated growl that came from the back of Mark’s throat when they were startled apart by the sounds of ten different alarms. His pupils had been blown black, his lips pulled back in a slight snarl, and he had pulled Ou Wen in closer as though he was going to ignore the alarms. Ou Wen had let go first, but he knew he wouldn’t have stopped Mark if he had insisted on continuing. In his weaker moments, Ou Wen wished he did. The memory now haunted Ou Wen’s dreams and he’d woken up hard and aching, Mark’s name on his lips, too many times in the past few days to be healthy.

So no, Mark definitely wasn’t straight, but rather than making this better, it actually made things worse. At least before, there had only been one option, one thing for Ou Wen to worry about. If Mark was straight, then it was never going it happen. Getting over unrequited love was difficult, but the feelings would have inevitably faded. It was painful loving something that didn’t love you back, but it did help knowing that it couldn’t love you back.

But now…now…now Ou Wen was presented with possibilities and with possibilities came hope, higher stakes, and worse heartbreak. What if Ou Wen went to Mark with his honest feelings only to find out that he had been an experiment? What if he was nothing more than another checkmark on Mark’s long list of conquests? He knew Mark was impulsive and a fuckboi when it came to women. Why would it be any different when it came to men?

Or even worse- what if Mark did like Ou Wen back and they got together, but then he decided he couldn’t come out? Ou Wen had known he was gay since he was ten, been out of the closet since he was fifteen, and had gone through enough pain, self-hatred, and guilt to last a lifetime. Dating a closeted person was as much of a rite of passage as crushing on a straight one and Ou Wen knew that it was a distinct kind of heartbreak when the person that was supposed to love you the most in the world was ashamed to be seen with you. Ou Wen had been crushed then, at the young age of 22, but those feelings didn’t even come close to the ones he had for Mark. What would he do if Mark suddenly decided he didn’t want to be with a guy anymore, that is was easier to be straight? Would he be able to survive that?

Ou Wen downed the rest of his whiskey, drowning in self-pity, and signaled to the bartender for another drink. Where was Sheng Ying when he needed her? She would understand Ou Wen’s current dilemma, what with her own issues involving a supposedly straight woman. And even if she wasn’t completely sympathetic, at least Ou Wen could have distracted himself by interrogating her about the whole Joanna situation. But no, apparently she had ‘other things to do’ and Ou Wen was left to wallow on his own in this horrible, dark pit of despair.

When the bartender returned, he set down something that definitely wasn’t whiskey in front of Ou Wen. He took out a lighter and promptly lit the shot on fire, alarming Ou Wen. He looked at the bartender only to have the bartender shrug and nodded his head to the right. Ou Wen turned and found a man walking towards him. He was older, maybe mid-fifties with salt and pepper hair slicked back and deep laugh lines around sleepy looking eyes. Overall he was attractive and fit for his age, well put together in slacks, a button up and shoes so polished they showed his reflection.

He slipped into the seat next to Ou Wen, purposely flashing the expensive watch on his wrist, and said, “You looked a bit lonely.” Ou Wen almost rolled his eyes at such a weak pick-up line, except he was looking for a distraction and it didn’t look like there was going to be a better option. Tilting his head, he tucked his hair behind his ear, and coyly glanced over.

“Are you going to help me fix that?” he asked, a practiced smile on his lips. The man all but leered and slid closer. He gestured at the drink and Ou Wen obediently picked it up, blew out the fire, and poured it down his throat. He immediately regretted it, wincing from both the alcohol and heat burning down his throat. The man seemed pleased by his reaction and tried to order another one, but Ou Wen quickly stopped the bartender before he walked away, asking for his original whisky.

The red flags were so blatant that Ou Wen would have had to been blind not to see them. The man was already too controlling, too overbearing, too demanding and they’ve barely spoken more than ten words to each other. However, Ou Wen was feeling a little dumb and a little self-destructive, so he decided that there was no harm flirting a bit.

For a while it was pretty tame. Ou Wen went through all the motions. Though his heart wasn’t it in, it was nice to stretch out those muscles and to know that he could seduce someone into his bed if he wanted. He spent so much time bickering with Mark he had almost forgotten he could be charming.

Then Ou Wen got to his fourth drink and the man decided it was the right time to start getting handsy. He probably expected Ou Wen to be drunker than he really was. Annoyed more than frightened, Ou Wen surreptitiously sent an SOS text to a friend under the table when the man wasn’t looking and slipped his phone back into his pocket before he could get caught. The man’s hand was too low on Ou Wen’s back to be decent and his other hand was squeezing Ou Wen’s knee. It wouldn’t be long before he started to creep it up Ou Wen’s thigh. He had dealt with enough of these aggressive types before to know the signs. Something about his long hair, gentle demeanor, and great fashion taste made them think he was a pushover and they were always surprised when he pushed back. Because of this, he also knew they were often very bad at taking no for an answer.

It wasn’t like Ou Wen thought he wouldn’t be able to take on the man when it came down to it. He was sure a few punches would be enough to get the message across. However, he was feeling a little blurry around the edges from the alcohol and he didn’t have to energy or motivation to get in a fight. It took a lot of energy to be sad all the time. He would rather wait for his friend to come and extract Ou Wen from the situation, get in a fight if needed. Then Ou Wen would pay him back by offering to buy him food and lamenting about his pathetic love life for the rest of the night. That was the whole purpose of friends, after all.

Besides, the bartender was watching them out of the corner of his eye, ready to step in if necessary. This wasn’t one of Ou Wen’s favorite bars, but he had been here enough that he and the bartenders recognized each other. He wasn’t in any immediate danger.

About ten minutes later, Ou Wen heard the bar door open with the gentle tinkling of bells and he straightened up, ready to be rescued. During that time, the older man had somehow convinced Ou Wen to take another flaming shot and finish his drink. His hand was now resting on Ou Wen’s inner thigh, but Ou Wen was too wobbly to care.

He turned to the man and smiled, smug about what was about to happen, only to have his heart stutter in his chest. An arm snaked around his shoulders and enveloped him in a familiar smoky sweet scent. A hand accessorized with rings he could recognize anywhere pushed the older man away

“Babe, how much did you drink?”

Ou Wen slowly looked over, fervently praying to the gods that he was hallucinating.  He wasn’t. Ou Wen made a half-panicked sound, unsure what to do, but to Mark’s credit, he played the role of a concerned partner perfectly. He shook his head exasperatedly, a glint of anger in his eyes, and tugged Ou Wen to standing position. Ou Wen numbly followed along, his brain still trying to catch up with what was happening. What was Mark doing here? Did he follow Ou Wen? Why would he do that? Where was Ou Wen’s friend?

“I know you’re mad at me, but this is a bit much, isn’t it?” Mark said. He leaned in and pressed a kiss against the corner of Ou Wen’s mouth. It was a short, fleeting thing compared to all the previous kisses, but it was still enough to grind Ou Wen’s world to a halt. This one might have been the worse on yet. It was soft, sweet, achingly affection. It was one of those thoughtless types of kisses, stolen between words, given at breakfast right before someone headed off to work or at an end a long day, too tired to do anything more. It was familiar, it was domestic, and it was so close to everything Ou Wen wanted, but couldn’t have that it made him slightly nauseous.

“Sorry,” Ou Wen said weakly, though he wasn’t sure what he was apologizing for. “I just…”

Mark shook his head and gathered Ou Wen’s stuff which amounted to his briefcase. “You always do this, storming off before I can get a word in. You’re lucky I love you.” And the way he throws it out there, so casual, so sure, like he said it every day, hit Ou Wen in the gut like a well-placed punch.

Of course Mark didn’t mean it. He was just playing a role. But knowing that still didn’t stop the words from echoing painfully in Ou Wen’s head. He blamed the flaming shots for how the room was spinning.

“Come on,” Mark said, pulling at a dazed Ou Wen. “We need to get you in bed.” They started to leave, but got stopped by the older man Ou Wen had completely forgotten about.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he sneered, grabbing Mark’s arm. Mark looked at him coolly and shook his hand off.

“I thought that’d be obvious. I’m taking my boyfriend home.”

“You sure he wants to go home with you? Because he’s been perfectly fine with me buying him drinks all night.”

Mark’s grip around Ou Wen’s shoulder tightened and his expression turned ugly. For a heart-stopping moment Ou Wen thought Mark was going to hit the other man, but then he reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. He let go of Ou Wen to pull out a few bills and threw them on the counter.

“Now I’ve bought all his drinks,” Mark said, his voice dangerously cold, “so I suggest you let me go.”

Not waiting for a reply, he grabbed Ou Wen around the bicep and all but dragged him towards the door. They were almost at the exit when the man shouted, “Keep a tighter leash on your whore of a boyfriend next time.”

Normally, Ou Wen would have turned right around and punched the guy in the face for that type of disrespect. However, he was nowhere close to his usual state of mind and he was more worried about the way Mark tensed, hand around the handle of the door, than insulted. He was afraid Mark was going to storm back in and cause a scene, but after a long pause, he silently pulled Ou Wen out of the bar. Ou Wen wasn’t sure how he felt. Was he relieved that Mark didn’t get into a fight that he probably wouldn’t have been able to win? Or was he disappointed that Mark didn’t defend Ou Wen’s honor like he had done before? What did it mean that Mark came to rescue him, but not stand up for him?

They carried on for a few blocks like this, Mark marching forward with Ou Wen stumbling behind him. Ou Wen could tell he was angry, tension drawn tight over the line of his shoulders and in the set of his jaw. His hand was bruising Ou Wen’s bicep where he still hadn’t let go. Was he mad at Ou Wen? For what? For what happened in the bar? For the bathroom? For having to save Ou Wen?

“Hey,” Ou Wen called out softly, trying to catch Mark’s attention. Mark ignored him. “Hey!” Ou Wen tried again. When Mark still didn’t react, Ou Wen dug his heels in and wretched his arm free. It got Mark to stop, but he didn’t turn around.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ou Wen asked, annoyed. He had been planning to thank Mark for helping him out – even though he still didn't know why Mark showed up in the first place – but he didn’t like whatever attitude this was right now and he wasn’t sober enough to be patient.  

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Is this what you do? Go to bars and let any old creep hit on you?” Mark spun around, his eyes blazing and stepped into Ou Wen’s space. Ou Wen’s mouth fell open in shock and he gaped at Mark as he stabbed a finger into the middle of Ou Wen’s chest. What was going on?

“Are you that easy? They buy you a few drinks and you go home with them? Is that it?”

The confusion cleared as the words started to register and Ou Wen felt his own temper flare up. Really? Was that what this was about? What right did Lee Mark, playboy extraordinaire, have to criticize Ou Wen?

“So what if I do?” Ou Wen snapped angrily. It was obvious that Mark wasn’t expecting that because he looked taken aback. “What business is it of yours who I go home with? I’m single, aren’t I? Do I say anything about the girls you take home?”

“That’s different!” Mark protested.

“Different? How is that any different? Is it because I’m taking home guys and not girls? I thought we got past this little homophobia problem of yours!”

“This has nothing to do with you taking home men! This is about you’re trash standards!”

“My trash standards?” Ou Wen repeated in disbelief. He had to have fallen into a parallel universe if Mark was lecturing him about standards. It didn’t help that he was right though. Ou Wen must have trash standards since he fell for Mark. “My trash standards?! That’s rich coming from someone who’s seduced by anything with a vagina and two legs!”

And usually he wasn’t so crass, but he was drunk and he was frustrated and Mark was acting like a dick. He might have pretended to be Ou Wen’s boyfriend to help him out, but he wasn’t actually Ou Wen’s boyfriend, and he never would be so he needed to stop thinking he had any say in Ou Wen’s life. He controlled too much of it already without even knowing.

“That’s not fair!” Mark said.

“How? How is that not fair?” Ou Wen snarled, shoving Mark away. He pushed harder than he meant to, surprising them both, but felt a streak of satisfaction when Mark almost tripped onto the floor. “You pick up your women at the club and I can’t pick up my men at the bar?”

“You can pick up all the men you want at the bar! But you can at least do better than some old creep!”

Ou Wen barked out an incredulous laugh and pressed a hand against his forehead. This conversation was absolutely insane. What were they arguing about? Ou Wen’s tastes? Who Ou Wen was allowed to sleep with? When did that become an open topic? Did Mark think he had a say just because they almost had sex in the bathroom?

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I needed your approval on things like that. What do you want me to do? Should I make a questionnaire for them to fill out before they try and talk to me? Should I send you their picture and information so you can approve of them before I let them fuck me? What’s the standard? Six feet tall? Must make at least three hundred grand a year? Must like children and small animals? Must-”

“At the very least they should be better than me!” Mark shouted, cutting off, his voice echoing in the empty street,

They stare at each other in stunned silence for a few seconds, the implications of that Mark just said sinking in. Something close to hysteria clawed its way up Ou Wen’s throat and he felt like puking. Mark paled, mortification clearly written on his face.

“Wait, That’s not what-that’s-” Mark stammered, reaching out like he was wanted to grab Ou Wen.

“Unbelievable,” Ou Wen muttered, slowly shaking his head and backing away. Why was this happening? This was not what he wanted. He wasn’t even sure what this was. A confession? A confrontation? A misunderstanding?

The thoughts in Ou Wen’s head were a chaotic mess, made messier by the alcohol and Mark’s presences. It was too much and the only thing that was clear was that he needed to get away. The farther away from Mark he was, the better.

“Fucking unbelievable,” Ou Wen said again, before turning on his heels and walking away.

Dai Ou Wen!” he heard Mark yell. Ou Wen ignored him and sped up, almost breaking into a jog.

He was absolutely not disappointed that Mark didn’t chase after him.