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how to set your heart aflame

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"Hyung?"

"Huh,"

"Mark hyung,"

"What--"

"Mark Lee!"

"What the hell," he asks when a hand pulls the headphones off his head, tossing them on the table carelessly. Mark scowls: "Jeno, that's not even mine. And it's expensive."

Jeno doesn't reply. He's looking down at Mark with an expression — one that Jaemin likes to call the "mad Jeno face", which happens once in a full moon if you're lucky enough, or if you're unlucky enough —, hands on his hips for a hot second before he goes and starts pulling at Mark's arms. "Come on," he says, he demands. "Let's get going,"

To which Mark scoffs, squirming out of his hold. "I'm not done yet, and it's not even late."

"It's three in the morning," Jeno complains. He keeps a warm hand on the side of Mark's neck, which is a low blow, because the latter leans into the touch instantly, spellbound. It's always like that with Jeno and he knows it, that's why he takes advantage of it. "You've been here all day. The music won't go anywhere, Mark,"

"Hyung," he adds. "Mark hyung,"

Jeno rolls his eyes, pinching the soft skin of his neck. "Mark hyung," he mocks. This gets Mark sighing, already reaching out to save the file on the studio's computer so he can, not very happily but also not entirely grumpy, follow Jeno outside.

"You don't have to take care of me, you know," he whispers quietly when they're inside a mildly annoyed manager's car, Jeno's thigh pressed too close to his, warm and familiar. He pictures it like this: Jeno bothering the manager enough to go pick Mark up at the studio they've been working on recently, maybe he's flashed her an eyes mile and she complied like everyone else does, and Mark understands. Of all people, he understands. "It's not what you're supposed to do."

"You're my hyung, but you're not the boss of me."

They stop at a red light a few blocks from the studio and it casts a reddish tone to his freshly dyed blond hair, casts a shadow on the slope of his nose that makes him look like the oversaturated version of what Mark wants to lean in and touch and feel and kiss and lo—

"I like your hair," he replies instead of moving. Instead of everything.

Jeno makes a sound, a very pleased one. He rests his hand on Mark's thigh and Mark's knee buckles. Spellbound.

 

Mark doesn't make a habit out of staying at the studio late at night. It's not just Jeno— no, he's constantly bombarded by Johnny's caring eyes and hands, pulling him to the door before he overworks himself, but it's mostly Jeno. It's as if—

He sighs. It's easier when Jeno has schedules of his own, does not have time to keep his eyes on him the way he likes to do, but Mark doesn't push it, either. He's happy to have a break off promotions, off tours and fan meetings now that Dream is preparing for a comeback of their own and he can breathe, he spends lazy afternoons taking naps on the room he shares with Jaehyun, plays Mario Kart with Jungwoo, raids Johnny's oversized hoodies from his closet frequently and, well, this:

"I thought you had a schedule today," he says as soon as a weight presses to his back. He doesn't need to look to know who it is. "I thought you had leader duties or something like that. Hyuck told me."

Jeno sighs, his breath is hot against the back of Mark's neck where he pressed his face. They're usually not like this. Not when anyone else's around, anyway. But when it's just them, yeah. Mark likes—

"I don't wanna be a leader today," he replies. His mouth is pressed right where the stretched out collar of Mark's old sweatshirt ends. He likes it there. "I said I my throat was killing me. They let me go."

Mark attempts to move, and Jeno falls to the space between him and the wall easily, trying to pull at the blanket so he can get under it without actually getting up. Jeno has a talent for making himself fit in places he didn't before, and Mark has learned approximately thirteen months ago that this is not exclusive of physical locations. Think: hearts. "But did you change," Mark asks, rolling to his side. "Not allowed in my bed if you didn't."

"Of course I did," Jeno replies. He says it in a pout, Mark can see it even on the dim lights. The curtains don't close very well ever since Yuta had broken something, so it's never really dark inside. "Am not gross like you. You, hyung, smell like you need a shower."

"Do I really, though?"

Jeno looks satisfied when Mark throws the blanket over him. He presses closer just a little, just enough for his back not to touch the cold wall. Then again, he fits. "No," he replies. "I was being ironic, hyung. Or did you not notice,"

"I think you're not very good at that," Mark teases, but when Jeno doesn't look up from where he's staring, probably at the hole on Mark's shirt, he raises a hand to brush the hair off his face. At that, Jeno looks up. "Do you wanna go play a game or something?"

He purses his lips. "No," and then starts fluffing Mark's pillow with a hand. "Can I just stay here for a while, hyung? Before I have to go back to my dorm?"

There isn't a single alternate reality in which Mark wouldn't say of course you can, and he doesn't know how to deal with that. Or maybe he does and just doesn't want to. So Mark lets Jeno tuck himself under his chin the way he likes it, his arm coming to wrap around Mark's torso tightly, also the way he likes it. And then Mark lets himself doze off again.

 

As he's not particularly good with time, Mark doesn't know where it starts, but sometimes, when he thinks about it, he likes to pinpoint Chile.

No, shit, he's been pining before, sure. He thinks: late 2017, or maybe even that one time when they were both fifteen (that sweet part of the year in which they're the same age and Jeno's told him, once, isn't it funny, hyung, how I never existed in a world in which you didn't, and Mark's heart was never the same after that) and Jeno pressed his cold feet to Mark's calves and told him he never kissed anyone (Jeno tells him a lot of things, Mark does in return, too) and then he pecked Mark on the mouth like he was saying goodnight. Sloppy and quick, like they both were. But Chile—

The weather is hot. Mark likes it. Ten had once pressed his cold hands to his nape in retaliation for something Mark doesn't remember, but he remembers Ten's face when he said: boys like you like it hot, scalding hot, it goes well with your heart. He was either talking about the weather or about showers or about anything else, and, yes, Mark likes it hot. His shirt clings to his back and he links his arm to Chenle's when they're talking through a street fair, he buys a hundred gifts to Donghyuck and a hundred and one gifts to Jaemin who's whining about it. He likes it.

And then Johnny buys a pretty little bottle of wine, and Mark's face is still hot and just as red when he sobers up enough to walk to his room. He finds Jeno on the way. Spellbound.

That's not exactly true. Jeno texts. He said: everyone is sleeping let's hang out. Which usually meant they would cuddle up on a bed and watch TV and videos on Youtube while the TV is on and Mark would try to speak Spanish and Jeno would pretend he knows, and then Jeno would say good night hyung and he'd press his pretty little hand to Mark's neck and walk to his room.

He pinpoints Chile because Jeno kept rubbing his thumb over Mark's thumb when he was showing him a particularly stupid video on Youtube, and then Mark touched his wrist, and when Jeno didn't move, Mark touched his arm and then Jeno turned around, without saying anything, and climbed on his lap. Mark doesn't know how this kind of thing happens with him, but he likes it.

He pinpoints Chile because Mark thinks they're going to kiss, but they don't. Instead, Jeno timidly presses his nose to Mark's cheek and says: "I think you're coming down with a fever, hyung," and Mark can't bring himself to mention the wine or the weather or the infatuation, so he rests his hands on Jeno's lower back and that's that.

He pinpoints Chile because of the wine and the weather and the infatuation and the way Ten's voice echoed boys like you like it hot, like he was talking about Mark walking over burning ember without burning his feet, like he feels when he's got Jeno's thighs around him like that, hands pressed to the sides of Mark's neck.

He pinpoints Chile because after Chile he leaves for the United States, and before Jaehyun suggests he enters the van someday soon, Mark, he's helping Donghyuck pack in a last minute craze and Jeno walks past them with no intention to help whatsoever, and he pinches the side of Mark's neck with no intention to say goodbye whatsoever also.

That lack of goodbye has Mark realizing he'll come back for him, spellbound. Always. That's why.

 

" Mark hyung go out with me~ " Jeno sings out of key as he walks around the room with a guitar he's found somewhere. He's not even trying. If he was, it would come out beautifully, like many things that Jeno does, but right now it just makes Mark's ears ring. " Buy me meat, Mark hyung, and buy me a bottle of soju to go with it~ "

"I'm not going to do that because you're taking advantage of me," Mark tries replying, but he's already shutting close Taeyong's laptop. They've been working on a song, he just came to take a last listen at it and Jeno decided to tag along. Decided, no. Mark thinks he just came. Spellbound. His heart goes tututututu when he gets up from the chair and Jeno smiles brightly. "You must get used to buying food for your members, not asking me to buy food for you."

Jeno's smile fades, replaced by a pout. He carefully places the guitar back on the case thrown over the couch where he lied down for exactly thirty six minutes before he got bored. "Oh, Mark hyung, you'll always be my leader. I can't forget you that easily!"

Mark sure hopes he can't, but he doesn't say anything. They ditch the manager with years of practice and he buys Jeno two bottles of soju, one of which he tucks inside the inner pocket of his jacket and Mark doesn't hear the end of it, and then he buys him every kind of meat on the menu. By his side on the table, Jeno shines, and in a moment of joy he leans in and presses his nose to Mark's neck.

He's gone before anyone notices. Mark doesn't sleep because of it that night.

 

The thing he likes— the thing he loves about Jeno is the way his mind works. Which means that Mark doesn't know how his mind works, but he'd like to understand. He also particularly loves watching as Jeno plays the guitar, this time back at the Dream dorm when Mark's visiting to a) pine over Jeno and b) eat all of Jisung's candy, and how his slender fingers pluck the cords so skillfully. Jeno plays the violin, too, but he's never shown Mark that too, and Mark dreams of it sometimes.

But overall he likes this: sitting with his back pressed to Jeno's side of the wall in the room he shares with Jaemin, knees pressed to his chest, watching and hearing carefully as Jeno singsongs something to him. His voice is like an enchantment, it makes Mark want to reach out and want.

 

"It's too early to sulk," Donghyuck says once when Mark is looking at a sunset through the airplane window. He's been playing the same game on his phone for hours. "We'll come home soon. I wanted to stay, too, but duty calls, right?"

Mark doesn't reply. He says: "This is the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen."

The sunset: violently red, painting the clouds in pinks and oranges like they're flying over a painting, but the sunset itself is red, red, red, like blood, like rubies, like carnations, like soft, boy-shaped mouths he can't kiss—

 

One time he's brushing his teeth in the bathroom, door locked after Johnny made a game out of his knack for pinching Mark's butt at any given situation — and Donghyuck thrived , Mark's worst nightmare –, when he hears Jungwoo's teasing voice loud and clear on the hall: "We should just have Jeno as a member of 127 if he's going to hang around so often!", and Mark nearly chokes on his toothpaste when he starts hurrying up to see what this is about.

He finds Jeno like this: pressed between Donghyuck and Jaehyun on the couch, on his pajamas, bare face and droopy eyes when he laughs at something else Jungwoo had said, and Jaehyun pets him on the head like a little child. "He's my new roommate," Jaehyung says, teasingly. "Isn't that right, Mark?"

Mark makes a face when Donghyuck starts to coo. He leans against the doorstep and tries to count how many times Jeno's spent the night here despite his dorm being on the other side of the building, not even on a different floor, just a three-minute walk. He thinks: Jeno, nose pressed to his collarbones, snoring softly, or Jeno, waking him up with a warm hand pressed to his tummy. He wonders: when did we get like this, when did I get like this, since he's always running away from the smallest displays of affection from Donghyuck or Taeil or Jungwoo and—

And then Jeno looks at him. Looks at him, with his lips pressed to an embarrassed grin, pulling at the sleeves of his sleep shirt. And Mark replies: "Yeah, that's right."

 

Jeno, he thinks, is very much like a dragon, if dragons were 5 ft 10" and had hands like this, hands that find their way to Mark's face, his neck, his back, warm and with purpose or no purpose at all. Mark constantly pulls at them, tries to compel Jeno into taming his touches, but he does it still — "Mark hyung, let me," and Mark does, of course, why would he not. Dragon's aren't creatures you tame.

He's walking back from dance practice when he bumps into Jeno on a corridor and Jeno makes a motion like he's going to kiss him, and Mark's brain goes stupid, and he says: "I'm all sweaty, though,"

Maybe Jeno likes him stupid. He makes a face like he knows what Mark is thinking, and then noses at his jaw before pulling away. "See you, hyung."

That's one thing about it: they don't kiss.

Mark personally thinks he's always on the brink of breaking loose and kissing Jeno senseless — he's been like this for a while, now, thinks that if he ever gets to have his lips on Jeno's, he'll burn like a match —, and there are moments in which he thinks Jeno is too. Other moments, no. Other moments, he reads it in Jeno's expression when they're inches apart and he presses his lips closed: Jeno is an open book, like a fairy tale story if you're asking, and Mark doesn't blame him for thinking that kissing is as intimate as it gets.q

So there it is. As of three days later, he settles for pressing his cheek to Jeno's just slightly when he's being coaxed for practice by Jaehyun at the door — who conveniently looks away, for Jaehyun's the best at keeping secrets when he pretends they don't exist —, and Jeno's nose scrunches in his sleep and Mark wants to kiss him, but right now he settles for pretending that he could.

 

"That's the dumbest shit I've ever heard," Donghyuck tells him over dinner. They're thousands and thousands of miles away from where Mark's heart is, and he tells Donghyuck that. "You're the grossest and the weirdest. You both are."

Mark nods, mouth tasting of in-and-out burger, coleslaw, and longing. Maybe that's what Donghyuck meant by weird. He says: "Gracias, chico. Pass me the mayo, will you,"

 

The catch: sometimes Mark doesn't know whether he's awake or not.

He's heard it somewhere that you can't read things while dreaming, but he soon found out that isn't exactly true — or maybe it is and Mark's brain tricks itself into thinking he can, but he's sure that in his dreams he reads of dragons. He presses his nose to old, old books and it is spelled out for him: obsidian scales and a smile made for war, dangerous, luring and hands like this—

Hands? Dragons don't have hands. It's the night before Dream's comeback and Mark feels Jeno's fingers brush against his collarbone, thumb stroking the skin of his neck gently, and he reaches to hold them still with one hand. Jeno makes a sound in the dark, a sigh, and in Mark's dream it resounds as a roar tearing open the sky.

He figures him not knowing he's awake or not must have to do with how little sleep gets on the daily, how little sleep they all get on the daily, how it's always brushing his teeth while trying to extend his 2 hour naps in the morning, dozing off for a few minutes on Johnny's shoulder on the bus, or moments like this one in which he feels the familiar weight of Jaehyn's hand on his shoulder and he looks back, groggily replying a "What... ?", eyes barely open to make out the shape of Jaehyun's smile in the dark.

"We're going out to get dinner," he says in a whisper. "You two going or do I bring something later?"

It takes a while for Mark's brain to comprehend. He's suddenly aware of how Jeno's face is pressed to his collarbone, but there's no way he'll even be able to do something about it now. So Mark lets out a "Staying," and Jaehyun replies "Behave," and Mark scoffs at him before his eyes shut close again, spelled by his sleepiness, turns around and buries his face on Jeno's dry hair as if he'd never woken up in the first place.

 

He figures his brief talk with Jaehyun was real— no, he wishes his brief talk with Jaehyun was real when he wakes up to Jeno lazily mouthing at his neck. Behave, Jaehyun said. Mark sighs. Yeah.

Jeno has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when he can munch on Mark without getting caught — "when" being, usually, times like this, or in the back of vans, or dark corners at the studio, but usually this. Frequently this. Mark's room is a cave where Jeno can spread his dragon wings and hoard treasures on his neck. Every time he bites down on Mark's skin he's actually finding a home for another of his rubies, emeralds and golden coins. Things that shine. Things that they both like.

Things that, if he could, Mark would show the world. Here is the aftermath of the boy I love, he'd say. But that's another fairy tale for him, meant for their shared space only.

"Easy, there," Mark manages to mutter. He can't open his eyes yet, maybe he's dreaming still, his hand searches for Jeno's hair to pull at it gently. "What are you doing?"

"Hyung," he replies, low tone. One of his hands had sneaked inside Mark's sweatshirt during their nap, he rubs his thumb over his side and drats his hand up, all the way to Mark's ribs. His touch burns. "Why do you let me sleep with you?"

Mark would be fine having this conversation while 100% awake. Right now his dumbass brain replies: because I lo—

"You're fun to cuddle," he replies. "Soft."

Jeno scoffs: "Taking advantage of me, I see."

It's a joke. Of course it is. His voice comes out in a laugh, and Mark pats his head blindly as he makes no effort to open his eyes yet, and Jeno makes a sound, embarrassed, suddenly aware of himself as he lies halfway on top of him. Mark wants to say: I woke up with your lips on my neck. You're the one with both the cheese and the knife on your hands. And maybe he does say it, without realizing, and Jeno's teeth sink on his throat.

In Mark's dream, he dies like this. A dragon rips his throat out like this. And then Jeno kisses the spot softly before pulling away. Mark is alive, for now.

"And why do you come to sleep with me," he asks, finally.

Jeno makes a face. He can't see it in the dark, but Mark figures he's frowning. "It's weird when you're not there," he says, at last. "I miss hanging out with you, hyung."

There is something lacking in his response just like in Mark's. He doesn't know what it is that they have, but sometimes Mark likes to think that there's the slight possibility that Jeno's just as emotionally constipated as he is. They've always been so similar, anyway.

They both fall asleep once more, and Mark keeps waking up through the night for some reason, blinking slowly as he watches Jeno turning around to face the wall. Then Mark so selfishly throws an arm around him and he'll blame it on the lack of space in the bed, he'll blame it on the way Jeno grabs his hand and presses it against his chest.

 

Mark's fallen in love before. Period.

Well, he's had crushes before. First it was Ten and how Mark followed him around like a moth drawn to a flame, puppy love meant for rookie years only, something Ten likes to tease him for. He also spent months dreaming of Ong Seongwu pulling him to his lap, treating Mark like he was made of glass, thumb pressing on his tongue. This is embarrassing, Mark thinks. He dreamed of other things too. And there was Daniel, which is simply funny because of Ong, and it's funnier when he thinks this one was televised for the whole world to see, how Mark looked at him and wished he could swallow him whole.

But Jeno was— Jeno is different. Gut punch different, hands on Mark's neck/back/arm/waist/heart, soft eyes on him, Mark's sloppy first kiss, falling asleep with his head on Mark's lap, let's cover Baby Don't Stop, Mark doesn't know how to stop now—

Not a crush. No. Jeno's built his dragon nest on the space between Mark's collarbone and jaw at the same time Mark pulled open a loose string on his spine and hid his heart between Jeno's sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, the same place he likes to kiss on Mark's neck when he thinks no one's looking.

Somewhere so obvious he won't ever notice, so obvious he won't ever doubt it, so Mark is safe. Hence why he presses his thumb to that exact same place when the twenty-one of them are standing in line to the vans parked outside the building, headed somewhere he can't remember right now. Jeno wiggles out of his touch with a laugh.

Mark doesn't know how to show it. Doesn't know how to point out and just say it, count one two three four five and six bumps on your spine and you'll find me there, whether you want it or not. He doesn't know how to do that. They don't teach you Falling In Love 101 on the Seoul School of Performing Arts, as much as Mark gives a hell of a performance trying not to let it slide to the fansites waiting outside.

"Hyung," Jeno complains, turning around. His smile is easy on the mornings, it's easy any time of the day, it just not goes easy on Mark's heart. "Manners."

Mark breaks out a grin, pushing him on the direction of his van. Jeno doesn't look back when he goes, and that's a blessing. If he did, Mark would just—

 

So that's the thing. Sometimes Jeno looks at him and it's like he's wondering what's for dinner tonight, like he's about to open up his mouth, rubies for teeth, and swallow him whole — and Mark would let him, of course he would, name one thing he wouldn't let Jeno do to him, when he runs his reassuring hands over the expanse of Mark's shoulders, when he climbs over him to fit in the space between him and the wall once more.

Mark would let him do whatever, whenever, wherever. Donghyuck calls it favoritism. Renjun calls it ridiculous. Jaemin calls it infatuation. Mark calls it the Lee Jeno effect. "Your dorm is on the other side of the building," Mark reminds him. "Or did you forget the way back home already,"

Jeno smiles sheepishly at him. There's a bedside lamp on Jaehyun's side of the room that casts a warm light on the bedroom, since they're both sick of the too white light coming from the lamp on the ceiling but none of them is willing to change it. Mark was reading, but he felt sleepy, and he's too lazy to go and turn off the light. Jaehyun will turn it off when he comes to sleep tonight.

"I didn't," Jeno says. "I treated them dinner. I brought meat for you, but I think Yuta has evil plans tonight."

Mark groans. His neck hurts from sleeping on his stomach like this, Taeyong's told him not to do it, but he can't move— won't move for as long as Jeno's hand continues to rub mindlessly at his shoulder blades, over his shirt, right where he knows Mark is sensible. "Thanks, but I ate already. Did you have a good time?"

Jeno nods. He spreads his fingers on Mark's back, the warmth of his palm sure and comfortable. "Would be better if you were there, hyung."

Mark makes a sound. The way it reverberates on his throat has Jeno making a face, he leans forward enough to press his nose to Mark's and he thinks, he's going to eat me whole.

That's how Mark wants to go. But all Jeno does is press their faces together, hand coming up to graze at the hairs on the back of Mark's neck, his breath all hot and warm and tasting like toothpaste.

On the back of his mind, a voice that sounds like Donghyuck's: why do you think Jeno crosses the entire building to come mouth at you like a dog, or are you just that dumb, Mark Lee. And Mark silences that voice with a shhhhhh, he's busy now.

But it's not like they ever kiss anyway, Jeno's mouth pressed to his cheek for a hot second before he pulls away. It's not like they ever kiss anyway.

"I have to go," is what Jeno says, in a whisper, it sounds more like a question than anything, like he's asking Mark if he should or not, but Mark's not his leader anymore, he doesn't need to ask permission for anything. Still—

Mark blames his lack of precaution on the Jeno effect. "Right now?"

And Jeno pulls at his blanket, throws it over himself, presses close to him. "Later."

Good.

 

"So when is Jeno moving in officially,"

"Shut up," Mark replies, hands digging to Jaehyun's side where he's ticklish. He lets out a yelp. "It's not like that."

Jaehyun recomposes himself, pushing Mark off him easily, and then he raises his eyebrows. "I see," he replies. "Just let me know if you want me to go crash at Johnny's any day."

Mark knows the implication of those words. It burns through him, licks at his ears and leaves him flustered enough for Jaehyun to pinch at his cheek, with a playful smile. "It's not like that--" Mark lies through his teeth. Maybe it is and he doesn't know, maybe he is and he pretends not to know, maybe it is, period., or maybe it's something entirely different. It's not like Jaehyun would know. "He's just... I am—"

He wants to shout it out: I am in lovelovelovelovelove, like I've never been before. He wants to shout it so loud the ground will break in two and take him in, somewhere full of rubies and golden coins and emeralds and a dead king's crown, somewhere Jeno will find him later. But—

Jaehyun pats him on the shoulder sympathetically, and Mark finishes his sandwich in one bite. "Just shut up," he concludes.

 

It's not like that. It really isn't. Mark is changing in his room in complete silence, back turned to his bed, trying not to think much about Jeno snoring softly — allergies — with his face pressed to his pillow just minutes ago. It's not like that, it's not. He wishes it was, but it isn't.

He sighs. There's ruffling behind him, and Mark looks back to see Jeno looking at him. He quickly puts on a shirt, and Jeno snorts.

"What are you laughing at," Mark accuses. He gives one anxious look to Jaehyun's neatly made bed, I'm going out with my friends tonight, have fun, and then back at Jeno.

"I can't see shit," Jeno replies. The lack of glasses, of course. "I was just trying to figure out if it was you or a demon staring at me."

He knows it's a bad idea, but Mark's feet move before he notices. He watches as Jeno's eyes widen when he throws a leg around his lap, hands on his shoulders, "Can you see me now, then?"

Jeno squints his eyes. "I think my myopia might have gotten worse..." but then he's laughing, they both are, his hands wrapped loosely around Mark's waist. "You'll have to come closer, hyung."

That's dragon talk. Jeno is luring Mark with his rubies for teeth and obsidian crested scales, ready to take his heart out in one bite, but the joke's on him, Mark's heart is perfectly hidden on his blind spot.

But Mark's not scared of fairy tales anymore, presses his forehead against Jeno's and lets his lips ghost over his open mouth.

Donghyuck said this once: Jeno looks like a fish, with his mouth hanging open like that. But Mark knows dragons like him smells with their tongues. And then Jeno closes his mouth, lips shut close, looking at him cross-eyed. Someone on the back of Mark's mind sings he doesn't kiss me on the mouth anymore, cause it's more intimate than he thinks we would get—

He doesn't care. He does but not right now, Mark just presses his nose to Jeno's cheek and runs both hands up his neck, into his hair. Jeno sighs contentedly. Mark doesn't care. He doesn't care . He can have this for now.

It always goes like this. Jeno moves before he notices, presses his mouth to Mark's pulse point timidly, waits for him to let out a (shaky) breath before sinking his teeth anywhere he can reach first. And tomorrow when Mark leaves for a radio show, the coordi-noona is going to scowl at the marks on his neck, and he's going to reply but have you tried stopping a dragon before. She'll look at him like he's gone mad. And he's going to answer: I never will.

 

And so Mark wonders, when he's sitting on the van after his schedule ends, with Taeil's head heavy on his shoulder, what would it be like to kiss Lee Jeno. Kiss him on the mouth, that is.

At first, Mark thinks he'd kiss him gently, like Jeno deserves to be kissed. Something like classic and sweet, sweet coming of age stories, they'd be sitting cross-legged in a bed, facing each other, and Mark would hold his face gently between his hands and peck him on the mouth for three seconds before Jeno leaned away, giggling.

Or maybe they'd kiss in the rain, he'd brush Jeno's always-in-need-of-a-haircut fringe off his face and ask him if he'd give Mark the privilege of kissing him. It'd be sweet and wet and dreamlike, with Jeno's hands holding his in a death grip.

The thought progresses eventually. Mark would kiss him in a movie theater through a gory scene that Jeno wouldn't like, Mark would put his arm around his shoulders and they'd make out lazily until the credits rolled. Or he would kiss him while they were hanging out by the dorm, and in this scenario they're both doing something they like. Jeno is drawing cartoonish doodles on a notebook, he's leaning so close to the table that his nose almost touches the paper because he's forgotten his glasses, and Mark is sitting on the chair by his side writing down some lyrics. He nudges Jeno on the ribs with an elbow and asks, what do you think of this, and they'd share this particular very them thing in which one asks the other what he thinks even thought it's always this is great, I like this, this is very cool. And in one of those times Jeno would motion for him to get closer and in this scenario he takes Mark by surprise, presses a hand to the back of his neck and kisses him very gently, very Jeno-when-they-met like. Then he'd kiss Mark senseless. That's very now-Jeno like.

But rare are the times in which the fairy tale-like fantasies of Mark's head become reality. His heart says something, longs for something reality can't bring him, and so his body does the exact opposite, especially when it comes to Jeno, because—

 

"That's gross," Donghyuck comments, palm open over Mark's journal, and Mark lunges himself forward like he's taking a dive just to pull it out of his curious hands. They both end up on the studio's floor. "Jesus Christ, what's gotten your undies in a twist today?"

"I'm going to murder you," Mark replies, holding his words close to his heart. Donghyuck gives him a vicious smile when he rolls on the floor and runs out of the studio.

 

They're sitting in his room when it happens.

That's normal. That's very usual. That's pretty much like them. Jeno is playing PUBG on his phone and he's done complaining that Mark deleted the game from his already, one of his legs is thrown over Mark's lap dangerously bare and all — "There's a heat wave coming," Ten had mentioned to him the other day. "Very fitting for your heart, isn't it?", because Ten's the one who reads Mark just the way Mark writes himself —, and Mark is not even pretending to watch Stranger Things on Netflix anymore.

"Oi," he says. Jeno replies with a huh, it's so very infuriating him that Mark presses closer, digs his chin to Jeno's shoulder just to bother him. "Jeno—"

"Get off," Jeno replies, but he doesn't move an inch. He even rests the side of his head on the side of Mark's head. "It's too hot."

That's true. The fan they strategically positioned facing the bed goes zoomzoomzoomzoomzoom and Mark's well-trained eyes watch how it makes the loose sleeve of Jeno's shirt ride up his arm. Pale and sinewy. It's the heat talking, Mark knows, he mechanically moves his chin to the side and presses his mouth to Jeno's jaw.

Neither of them move, but Jeno dies in his game and doesn't seem to notice. Mark never kisses him. Mark will let him chew on him, kiss his neck, press hands to his sides eagerly and he'll do it all in retaliation except for kissing him, because Jeno won't kiss him properly either. But he presses his lips to Jeno's jaw and stays there for a hot second. Then he leans back.

Once, during his last promotions with Dream, Donghyuck had leaned against his side as they huddled inside a van for a schedule and he said, in a whisper, you know Jeno has a thing for you, don't you, you'd know he'd do anything for you. And Mark had laughed about it, at how Donghyuck had talked about it like he cast a spell over Jeno without realizing, except that he sees it now— like he's enchanted, like Mark's lips had lifted a curse from his dragon skin, Jeno follows his movement in the exact same second. Spellbound.

It's like slow motion, except it isn't, but Mark follows it with his eyes, when Jeno presses his face to his like he always does, except that this time he lets his mouth press to Mark's. In the second before it happens, his face is more of a boy's than that of a dragon. And so they burn.

Unlike he had fantasized and very like how Mark is, it takes him a second to curl a hand around Jeno's jaw as soon as he gets a taste of it. The heat wave is very fitting for his heart, beating so loud Mark can hear it, as he licks into Jeno's mouth hungrily, the way he makes him feel most of the times, enjoying the way Jeno's hands cling to the front of his shirt, pulling him closer. The heat wave is very fitting for his heart and for a dragon, one that lets Mark hold his jaw in place so pliant, more Jeno than anything else.

Conquest, baby. Now he knows what it all tastes like, and isn't it so sweet.

 

Somewhere through in the story Mark finds himself living in a cottage on the woods.

Wait, make it on the edge of a cliff, and there's a wall in the cottage that's made entirely of a glass window so he can see the sea. And there's a chair by that window, and he sits there every afternoon, and Jeno smiles at him through the glass when he opens his wings, twice the size of that cottage, and dives.

They live on the edge of this cliff because Jeno likes to fly over the sea and Mark likes to watch him through the window until he's a black spot in the sky and then nothing. And when it becomes dark he'll come home and his wings will become fairy dust, he's going to tiptoe his way into the house and press his scalding hot hands to Mark's back, mouthing on his neck, and then they're going to—

 

"That's a funny way to say you want to—"

"Shut up," Mark begs him. Begs him because Jeno knows no boundaries to anything anymore, or so he likes to pretend, when he's got Mark pressed to a wall and a hand on his hip. "They're going to hear us."

"Hyung, that's the best part of it," Jeno replies. His hair is gelled up to match with his jacket, a blonde Danny Zuko for Mark to drool over, and somewhere in this building Yeeun is wearing a jacket like this and matching boots, too. Jeno's fingers dip in the space between Mark's belt and his belly, too deep, which brings out a scandalized sound from Mark's mouth, and he pulls the hand away. "I wasn't going to do anything,"

"Liar," Mark accuses. "I'm going to tell everyone you kidnapped me."

Here's the piece Mark's been working on: HOW TO SET YOUR HEART AFLAME. It's a user's guide. It starts with his hands on either side of Jeno's face, pulling him into a kiss that's going to ruin both of their makeups, and Jeno smiles against his mouth, sharp teeth catching on his bottom lip. "You followed me willingly," he says. And Mark replies:

"I'd follow you anywhere."

Jeno's breath on his neck feels like spitting fire, burning when he finds his place right there under Mark's jaw. "That's mushy, hyung."

Sighing, Mark presses a hand on his nape, fingers digging at his spine. That's his place. And Jeno bites down particularly hard and he says: "If you leave a mark, I'll get you fired."

"And then how will I get to take you out for dinner, hyung. Just deal with it—"

 

"Hyung, maybe you're a dragon, too," Jeno tells him one day, when Mark is spread over him like he's got nothing better to do. He doesn't. He's told Jeno about the dragon thing, and: "You know, dragons are, like, the epitome of apex predators, all shaped into one. A Spotify curated playlist of fear."

"Is that so," he asks. When he talks, his chin digs to Jeno's chest, and he squirms, gigglish under him. "Tell me about it, then."

"Think: snakes--" Jeno starts. "-- for the scales. Felines for the four paws, also temperament. And birds. Think eagles or falcons," he giggles. "Somebody said this on a documentary. Some sci-fi director."

That makes Mark laugh. Jeno's hand rests against his cheek, unmoving but there. "And you were watching that because... ?"

Jeno makes a face. "Had nothing to do on the plane. And now I've got myself a dragon boyfriend."

The word slips out of his mouth before he notices, and when he does, Jeno is extremely silent. Mark watches the change on his face like you watch the weather change suddenly. It makes him crawl up Jeno's body, elbows on both sides of his face. And Jeno looks up to him:

"I can't say that," he guesses. "Can I?"

"To me, you can," Mark replies. Jeno is slightly cross eyed as he looks at him like that. It makes his heart go tutututututu . "But I don't know how anyone else thinks of dragons these days,"

Jeno scoffs. His hands pull Mark down by pressing on his back, he doesn't mind the weight, and Mark bites down on his bottom lip. He then makes a satisfied sound. "Hyung, I was talking about calling you my boyfriend," he says, lips moving against Mark's.

"Oh," replies Mark, eloquently. He drops to the side. He's supposed to leave for a schedule in approximately twenty minutes. Jaehyun's knocked on the door twice already. "I'm pretty sure everyone else knows already."

Jeno gives him a satisfied smile, hand rubbing circles on his stomach. Mark's heart catches fire, finally. Mission accomplished. When Jaehyun knocks on the door once more, Mark leans in to kiss Jeno on the mouth once more.

Maybe he's a dragon, too. He hoards love.